Talking about rights without talking about rights: on the absence of knowledge in classroom discussions




This article reports on research in three secondary schools in England where students were engaged in deliberative discussion of controversial issues. The teaching resources used illustrated rights-based dilemmas and the data analysis focused on the nature of the talk and the types of knowledge the students drew upon to inform their discussions. The article shares four insights: (i) there is a need to be more explicit about what constitutes human rights knowledge; (ii) human rights education requires the development of political understanding, which moves beyond individual empathy; (iii) educators need to value the process of deliberative discussions and avoid a push for conclusive answers; (iv) students need support to draw on knowledge from a range of disciplines. If these issues are not addressed, some students are able to engage in rights-based discussions with little knowledge and understanding of rights.


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Author Biographies

Lee Jerome, Middlesex University, UK

Lee Jerome is Associate Professor of Education at Middlesex University. He has worked in citizenship and human rights education for over 20 years and is a founder member of the Association for Citizenship Teaching.

Anna Liddle, School of Media and Communication, University of Leeds, UK.

Anna Liddle teaches at the Lifelong Learning Centre at the University of Leeds. Her recent PhD was on how schools teach about peace and war. Her research interests include peace education and citizenship education.

Helen Young, London South Bank University, UK.

Helen Young is a Senior Lecturer at London South Bank University. She conducts research in sociology of education, particularly in education policy and ideas of democracy and citizenship.


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How to Cite

Jerome, L., Liddle, A., & Young, H. (2021). Talking about rights without talking about rights: on the absence of knowledge in classroom discussions. Human Rights Education Review, 4(1), 8–26.

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