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Human Rights in Social Science Textbooks: Cross-national Analyses, 1970–2008

John W. Meyer, Patricia Bromley and Francisco O. Ramirez
Sociology of Education
Vol. 83, No. 2 (APRIL 2010), pp. 111-134
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/25677187
Page Count: 24
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Human Rights in Social Science Textbooks: Cross-national Analyses, 1970–2008
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Abstract

In reaction to the disasters of the first half the 20th century and World War II, a dramatic world movement arose emphasizing the human rights of persons in global society. The contrast—celebrated in international treaties, intergovernmental and nongovernmental organizations, and much cultural discourse—was with narrower world emphases on the rights of citizens of national states. Since the 1970s, this movement has increasingly emphasized the importance of human rights education as central to sustaining human rights principles. This article examines the rise of human rights themes in secondary school social science textbooks around the world since 1970, coding data on 465 textbooks from 69 countries. The authors find a general increase in human rights discussions, especially since 1995. Human rights receive less emphasis in history texts than in civics or social studies ones, and there is less human rights emphasis in books that discuss national, rather than international, society. Human rights emphases are associated with the pedagogical student-centrism of textbooks: The proactive student is a rights-bearing student. Finally, a number of indicators of national development and especially political culture show positive effects on human rights emphases. These findings broadly support the arguments of institutional theories that the contemporary "globalized" world is one in which the standing of the participatory and empowered individual person has very great legitimacy.

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