ELHS assists in broadening student perspectives as Human Rights Day approaches
This year’s Human Rights Day, Dec. 10, is quickly approaching, and there is no better time to underscore ELHS’s efforts to address human rights dilemmas. The Human Rights class is one of several areas in ELHS focused primarily on these efforts.
“What motivated me to enroll was my love for history as well as my love for talking about it while applying it to relevant topics today. I wanted a class that could talk about the corruption in our world while also talking about relevant ways to address them,” senior Imahni Ward said.
Human Rights Day was officially recognized when the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, or UDHR, was adopted by the United Nations on Dec 10, 1948. Translated in over 500 different languages, the UDHR proclaims the rights every human holds regardless of race, sex, religion, origin, or other status.
Since the declaration’s adoption, Human Rights Day has been celebrated yearly, commonly under a specific theme relative to that certain year. History teacher Hamilton Hernandez teaches the Human Rights course at ELHS and focuses his curriculum around Human Rights Day each year.
“We usually consider what the focus of the United Nations is on Dec 10. As an organization, they drive a lot of the
focus regarding human rights issues,” Mr. Hernandez said.
For this year’s Human Rights Day theme, the focus of the United Nations is set on inequality. Mr. Hernandez has incorporated his theme into the course by providing examples of inequality such as the persecution of the Uighur people within China, a topic the class is learning currently.
“The broad topics we’ve covered are genocide, poverty, and gender equality worldwide. It’s never just focused on America,” Ward said. “One of the topics that stuck with me was the fact that a lot of people start charities and
organizations without researching the root cause. We talked about how organizations like Live Aid may have meant well, but the money was not used in the correct ways and may have done more harm in the end.”
The Human Rights course began five years ago, predating Mr. Hernandez’s time at ELHS. The course is a social studies elective that focuses on both historic and modern day issues in tandem with how to address them. Ever since Mr. Hernandez began teaching the class, he has appreciated the connection he could form with his students.
“What I enjoy about the course is that it provides my students and I opportunities to think about solving societal issues while considering multiple perspectives,” Mr. Hernandez said.
The semester-long course covers a variety of controversial topics around the world, often aligning with current events.
“There are some issues- genocide, global poverty, and inequality- that we cover each year. The class changes each semester depending on the news cycle,” Mr. Hernandez said. “The first semester I taught human rights, we covered the Rohingya crisis in Myanmar. This semester, we have covered more issues regarding the genocide of the Uighur people in China.”
Mr. Hernandez incorporates student ideas by allowing them to collaborate and discuss topics covered throughout the class. Given the topics discussed are often controversial and disturbing, students develop civility and maturity while sharing their views with others.
“My hope is that students will continue to practice having open conversations and considering the perspective of others,” Mr. Hernandez said. “Whether or not their conversation centers around human rights, I want them to be able to feel comfortable sharing their viewpoint along with listening and considering the viewpoints of others.”
Senior Isabella Bogue, a student in this semester’s Human Rights course, appreciates Hernandez’s encouragement to openly express opinions.
“I appreciate how humbly Mr. Hernandez teaches this class, for lack of better words. I never feel like he is condescending when he talks to us,” Bogue said. “It makes it easier to say my opinions, even on topics I’m not well
versed in. It makes it enjoyable to learn, even when the topics are anything but.”
As Human Rights Day nears, Mr. Hernandez has ensured that students taking Human Rights are knowledgeable of not only the United Nation’s efforts towards bringing justice for humanity, but also how to broaden their perspectives of global issues.