Course description and goals

This course will provide students with an overview of the historical, theoretical and practical underpinnings that have shaped and continue to shape the development of human rights in both domestic and international arenas. We will discuss the origins of modern conceptions of human rights and how ideas about human rights have been crafted into international declarations, domestic law, and policies that enforce and monitor the human rights record of global, national and local communities. The class will also explore some specific human rights issues (e.g., the rights of women and children).

The course is divided into four major sections:

  • The modern history of human rights
  • Philosophical foundations of human rights
  • The International Bill of Human Rights
  • Other Covenants and their applications

In the course of mastering the material presented, students will have the opportunity to develop their critical thinking and writing skills through a series of exams and reflection papers, as well as a country study.

Goals for the course

This course fulfills an elective in either the major or minor for students in Political Science. It may also be used as an elective in the Justice Education minor, or as a course meeting outcome 1B in the Gender and Women’s Studies program (“Students recognize and explain intersectionalities of gender, race, class, sexualities, and other identity categories from historical and contemporary transnational perspectives”). Additionally, it serves as a Women’s Voices course in the Sophia Program in Liberal Learning.

Main POSC/JUST goals:

These are indicated in the course description. By the end of the course, students will:

  • Have an understanding of the modern history of human rights, and the ways in which the international community has attempted to implement those rights.
  • Be familiar with some of the philosophical underpinnings of human rights, and understand the challenges of developing common understandings of human rights across cultures.
  • Have explored several of the modern international human rights instruments, and the ways in which they’ve been implemented in a variety of global, national, and local communities.

Students accomplish these goals by means of the course readings, exams, and the assignments noted below, which are also used for assessment.

Women’s Voices learning outcomes:

  • A Saint Mary’s student identifies and understands women’s contributions to human knowledge and achievement and how those may have been influenced by constructions of gender.
  • A Saint Mary’s student reflects analytically upon her own heritage and experience as a woman and articulates her reflections within a particular disciplinary context.
  • A Saint Mary’s student analyzes the forms and effects of gender prejudice, and evaluates strategies for response.

Students accomplish these goals primarily through the first reflection essay and through their work on the country study.