The University of Iowa

International Day to educate on human rights

November 16th, 2010

By Josh O’Leary, Iowa City Press-Citizen

Sixth-graders from Iowa City’s Longfellow and Hoover elementary schools and students from North Central Junior High in North Liberty will be among the 300 middle-schoolers thinking globally today during the University of Iowa College of Education’s International Day.

Bus loads of students from 13 schools in Eastern Iowa and Moline, Ill., will participate in the 14th annual event from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. today at the Coralville Marriott Hotel and Conference Center, where the theme is “The Human Right to Well-Being.”

Students will discuss human rights issues in small groups, watch international dance and music performances and participate in hands-on workshops.

“What we hope the kids get out of it is the understanding that the United States is not the same as the rest of the world,” said event coordinator Gregory Hamot, a UI professor of social studies education in the Department of Teaching and Learning.

“There are a lot of different interpretations of what it means to be human, and there are a lot of situations where our kids — they’re young and I don’t blame them — feel that everybody has the same kind of luxuries and opportunities that we do here. That’s not necessarily the case,” he said.

“There are a lot of situations where our kids feel that everybody has the same kind of luxuries and opportunities that we do here. That’s not necessarily the case.”

Although U.S. citizens’ human rights are protected in the Constitution and through local laws, Hamot said students will learn that their peers elsewhere in the world aren’t always afforded the same protections, including those affected by child soldiering, child trafficking and mental health issues.

When the evaluations are filled out at the end of the day, Hamot said students in past years often have said the event was an eye-opening experience. And when they return to the classroom, teachers will use the event as a springboard for projects.

Event co-coordinator Teresa Garringer, program assistant at the College of Education, said human rights is a topic that is not always covered in classrooms, and the event gets students thinking about global issues.

“It arouses a lot of good discussion,” Garringer said.

Youjia Hua, a Shanghai native and a professor of special education at UI, will give the keynote address, titled “No Children Left Behind in China.”

Hua’s research at the university focuses on academic and behavioral intervention for students with learning and behavioral difficulties, and he collaborates with special education agencies in China.

Students also will watch a performance by Combined Efforts Theater, a troupe founded by Janet Schlapkohl of UI’s MFA playwriting program that is designed to give students with disabilities the opportunity to perform with their peers.

UI’s Afro-Cuban Drum and Dance group, led by James Dreier, Paul Cunliffe and Modei Akeya, also will perform, and its members will discuss their visits to Cuba, the unique music found there and its relevance to U.S. music and culture.

International Day is part of International Education Week.