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Dignity and Human Rights Education

Exploring Ultimate Worth in a Post-Secular World


Robert A. Bowie

This book addresses the question of human rights education in a world that is witnessing a resurgence of religion in public life, and a continuation of religion across much of the globe, long after secularization theories predicted its decline. Promoting a universal vision of human rights while acknowledging religious diversity is a challenge for schools. This book starts with the basic premise that human rights are grounded in a belief in the dignity and ultimate worth of the human person. Drawing on key philosophical and theological sources for understanding dignity, it builds a vision of human rights and religious education that seeks to square the impossible circle of universal human rights education in a religiously diverse world.

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Chapter 1: Human rights education and religion


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Human rights education and religion

HRE is commonly understood as a movement that began with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and this review includes the formation and discussion of that document and the period since then to the present. References to earlier periods are made where appropriate as certain historic religious movements are cited in literature from the modern HRE period. What is attempted here is an account of the presentation of internationally agreed HRE and the educational literature around these agreements. This is illustrated and amplified with selective examples from particular sectors and regions in an attempt to capture a representation of the range of examples. The first part of this chapter, Human rights education, explores the idea of HRE in some depth.

HRE international documentation, educational literature and teaching guidance documents treat religion in a number of ways. As a pedagogic movement HRE is commonly conceived of in secular (non-religious) terms (Baxi & Mann, 2006; Osler & Starkey, 2005, 2010) with little explicit attention given to any role for religion. The second part, Diminishing roles of religion in HRE identifies different diminishing roles HRE sources grant religion.

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