The Arts Edition
“Art does not exist only to entertain but also to challenge one to think, toprovoke, even to disturb, to engage in a constant search for the truth.”~ Barbra Streisand
All forms of art - drama, music, visual art, poetry, film, photography, and dance - stimulate connections between people. They are forms of expression often used to promote social change and to stand up for human rights. Art communicates across boundaries of geography, politics, gender, and race.Human rights too, cross all divides and belong to every individual on the planet. Simply put, art reflects us – we experience art together. It makes us feel human, and moves us to protect the human rights of others.In the classroom, the arts provide an invaluable tool through which teachers can attempt to address sensitive and challenging human rights issues.
As one human rights educator stated:
“...Arts by their very nature are viewed as tools for change, the development of consciousness and as mobilization for actions. All of this applies so well to the understanding of human rights and the skills needed to enforce and empower students to take action. Everything students read, enact, create, showcase, write or perform ties to human rights exploration. We have had great success usingtheatre, music, dance and writing to allow students to give voice to human rights issues, in this country, other countries and even within school cultures. It is this direct link and exploration that drives artists of all ages – and affects change.” ~ Sandy Borren Barrett, Associate Artistic Director, Stages Theatre, Hopkins, MN
Human rights themes and art can connect in the classroom in many ways. Here a just a few examples:
Human Rights provide both the opportunity to affirm the value of human diversity and identify a threat to cultural identities where languages and cultural traditions are disappearing. Artistic forms and styles can be used to reassertidentities. For example, people transported as slaves to the Americas were forced to repress their cultural traditions. Despite this, song and storytelling were developed as a means of resistance; and blues, gospel and jazz helped to shapeAfrican-American identity. Today, many African musicians use rap and hip-hop as an expression of defiance, protest and social conscience.
Just as the arts can be used as propaganda, it can also act as a social conscience where rights and freedom are under threat. Satirical songs, drama and cartoons are all ways in which artists highlight hypocrisy and abuse of power.Cultural and artistic freedoms have even been written into the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Positive social change
The arts often reflect the status quo but can also point to change and new possibilities. Art with a political or social message can be a powerful force for those challenging injustice. It can also symbolize aspirations for an alternativefuture. As teachers, we have the power to affect change in many ways.Packed full of lesson plans, activities, ideas, resources, and websites all dedicated to transforming learning in and through the arts, this Arts edition of Rights Sites News is designed to help teachers use the power of art to advance, protect, and celebrate human rights in their classroom. As Article 27 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states, “Everyone has the right freely to participate in the cultural life of the community, to enjoy the arts and to share in scientific advancement and its benefits.”