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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 10: Recontextualizing human rights education


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Recontextualizing human rights education

Through a conceptual analysis of the idea of the dignity of the human person in human rights and HRE, through a range of contextual perspectives (philosophical, theological and educational), it has been demonstrated that dignity is an important idea, both as a moral foundation but also in the way it informs approaches to education. The modern idea of dignity, on which human rights depend, has been influenced by philosophical and theological sources, as well as the historical experiences of the twentieth century. The sources are found in different meaning-giving narratives and yet there are common patterns in the way those narratives explain dignity. This pattern, which can be called an underpinning framework, includes notions of inherent worth, societal response/attribution and human flourishing or development. A form of HRE could be developed and practised in such a way that it encourages the exploration of multiple foundations within different meaning-giving narratives, while at the same time holds fast to a common concept of dignity which constitutes a provisional shared understanding. This form addresses both the universalism and particularism of human rights. It rejects the argument that religious education only has a meaning for those who come from a religious background and that an entirely secular-based subject, such as citizenship education, is an appropriate replacement for the study of religion, offering a moral provision for non-religious pupils (Hargreaves, 1994).

The common pattern is based around a belief in...

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