Human Rights

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Course DatesMeeting TimesStatusInstructor(s)CRNRegistration
July 08, 2019 - July 19, 20197/08 - 7/19M-F 1P-3:30P and TWTh 4-5:30POpenJonathan Sozek

Course Description

This course is designed specifically for English Language Learners interested in further developing their English skills in a challenging college-level academic setting.

What are human rights? Where do they come from and who has them? Who (or what) are the most common violators of human rights? And, can we stop these abuses? These are the primary questions addressed in this course. Together, we will cover four main themes: the provenance of human rights, the rights themselves and what constitutes their violation, types of rights violators, and mechanisms to prevent and redress abuses.

First, students will gain a basic understanding of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (considered the touchstone document), including its origins and interpretations over time. Then, the specific rights protected in the Declaration will be reviewed, as well as how these rights are violated under international law. Third, we will discuss “old” rights violators, such as governments, and “new” rights violators, such as individuals, drug cartels, terrorist networks, and militias. Finally, the class will analyze mechanisms in international law to redress abuses, as well as the international organizations working to prevent rights abuses and hold violators to account. A special focus will be placed on forced displacement due to violence and war, including the experiences of internally displaced persons and refugees.

Each student will select a human rights issue or topic. You might pick the right to food, movement, speech, or political participation, among many others. You will research your chosen human right topic, present and report on it to the class, talk about it in group discussions, and write a short final paper on the human right issue you chose. By the end of the course, students will have documented what it means for people to have this particular right, how it is violated, what mechanisms exist to protect this right, and what organizations are working to ensure more people have this human right. You will teach your classmates about the right you chose, and learn about other human rights from them.

Throughout the course, students will critically engage with academic literature, primary materials (e.g., The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, United Nations Documents, news articles), the webpages of human rights organizations, and movies.

Students will develop their research, critical thinking, writing, and presentation skills. In more detail, they will develop well-reasoned positions on world affairs, and hone their abilities to articulate these positions orally and in writing. This includes authoring a college-level paper, meaning articulating a thesis statement, using evidence, and addressing counterarguments. Critical thinking will be emphasized. We will ask questions like: What rights are missing from the Universal Declaration? How would another culture view this? Students will be given tips to develop their research and time-management skills. This course is preparation for college majors in the social sciences, history, and pre-law.

Prerequisites: There are no prerequisites for this course, although students with an interest in the social sciences, modern history, or pre-law will find this course particularly interesting, as will students interested in development, humanitarian aid, migration, public policy, and the causes and consequences of war.


Course Information

  • Course Code: CEPS0975
  • Length: 2 weeks

Program Information

Summer@Brown for English Language Learners

A select group of non-credit courses in the liberal arts and sciences supplemented with English language learning, two weeks long, taught on Brown’s campus. For University-bound English language learners completing grades 9-12 by June 2019.

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