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Human rights and Argentina’s Dirty War

After seeing our students’ responses to a mini-unit on Indigenous Rights and our weXplore meeting with the Guarani people at their village of Fortin Mborore, I felt compelled to begin a unit on the multitude of human rights issues that exist throughout our world. The Guarani peoples, for example, have long struggled with their treatment in both Brazil and Argentina as they are forcefully removed from their land.



The Human Rights unit will serve as an underlying theme in each country that TGS students travel to. In Global Studies, our goal is to learn about the other so that we can learn more about ourselves. By researching and understanding the failures to stop atrocities across the world, we will develop understandings of reciprocal respect and competencies to stand up to the next round of oppressors. Using the Education Library of the Human Rights Education Associates and the UN Cyber School Bus, I am trying to foster a “human rights climate” that is at the core of our values at TGS. Due to their multinational backgrounds and our great Model United Nations club, THINK Global School students are already quite knowledgeable about the world and the different ways its conflicts are managed. This familiarity with the subject matter should help ensure that the adoption of a “human rights climate” within our classrooms is effortless.

“The human rights climate within schools and classrooms should rest on reciprocal respect between all the actors involved. Accordingly, the way in which decision-making processes take place, methods for resolving conflicts and administering discipline, and the relationship within and among all actors constitute key contributing factors”


The class started with a study of Argentina’s Dirty War, or as the government at the time called it, ‘the National Process of Re-Organization.’ This particular event ended with approximately 30,000 soldiers, citizens and innocents dead at the hands of the national government and revolutionary groups. By studying a human rights violation in the country that we are currently living in, we were able to visit the sights and talk to the people that were involved from either side. By doing so, we try and gain an understanding and perspective of the events. One way the students saw and felt the Dirty War was on a field trip to the Escuela de Mecanica de la Armada (ESMA), which was the most notorious of the clandestine detention centers used by the military dictatorship from 1976-1979. Connections were made to the students past placements in Germany and important questions arose. We left the ESMA and headed for the Casa Rosada, the house of government in Argentina, where we would see the famous Madres de la Plaza de Mayo.


Every Thursday at three o’clock since 1977, mothers of disappeared persons march in circles waiting for the government to explain to them where their sons, husbands, daughters, and children have gone. The mothers wear white scarves embroidered with their loved ones’ name. After all of this time, they are still waiting for an official response from the government. The students were able to interview and ask questions to some of the mothers, providing them with a firsthand look into the Madres’ grief.

Back at school, the students received presentations on the history and reasoning behind the actions of the military triumvirate led by Jorge Rafael Videla. In Garrett Austen’s English classes, students read the powerful novel Perla by author Carolina de Robertis. The novel portrays the struggle of a naval officer’s daughter to understand the world around her during this time period. After familiarizing themselves with the book, the students were lucky enough to have a Skype conversation with Carolina about Argentina’s shameful history.

The Disappeared unit was brought to a close with an amazingly rare opportunity to meet with the Argentines for National Concord, a group comprised of members from all sides of the conflict. Their aim is to raise awareness for the Disappeared and bring reconciliation to the events of the Dirty War. Students Alejandro and Melissa translated the group’s words of peace to the students of THINK Global School, and helped us understand their stories and roles in the infamous events of the 70s. You can view their guest speaker bio here. Through learning about the Disappeared in Argentina’s Dirty War, students were able to understand what human rights are and how they can be violated. Once they saw this example in Argentina, we were able to expand to a global discussion of human rights.


Students started with a basic overview of human rights by reading selections from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Convention for the Rights of the Child to grasp the wording of what rights we are guaranteed and why they are important. The students gained a perspective on the bigger picture at TGS when I explained how our school is a model for world peace, that they are a part of something bigger than themselves. Using Bob Marley’s song “War,” which is an adaptation of Haile Selassie’s, former emperor of Ethiopia, speech to the United African Congress, the students and I discussed the concept of peace. They were asked to define peace, tell me why it is important, and to think deeply about what it would look like. A link to their forum posts on this are provided below.

I wrote the following:

To me …

Peace is much more than the absence of war and violence. It is the blending of minds, ideas and feelings in an environment free of fear, judgement and discrimination. Humans speaking with humans no one superior or inferior.

It is important for the advancement of our species. The free flow of ideas leads to better innovations, which in turn leads to a smarter and safer world. Hopefully, this world will have smarter and safer products that are well thought out on the basis of international morality.

To me, peace looks like … (I was staring at the 10th grade when I wrote this in my moleskin)

THINK Global School … I have 12 students from 10 countries sitting on the roof of the sky terrace meditating and sharing their ideas and opinions freely. We will share it on an online forum to try and collectively make the world a better place. By bringing students together from different parts of the world and showing them the shared humanity in all of us, we are sowing the seeds for peace in each one of you. When you return to your countries you will speak of your new classmates and friends as people, not as Germans, Americans and Morrocans! This is a big step to break down barriers between countries and cultures, we are all human!

The lessons that followed asked students to conduct independent research on human rights violations that were committed following the post-World War II Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). They added separate links on our forum of different atrocities and will be asked to periodically make comparisons to the current events and issues that are discussed in class. Students made connections to Pol Pot in Cambodia, the Aborigines in Australia, the Taliban’s oppression of women in Afghanistan and Pakistan, Chairman Mao and Tianamen Square, and others.

Grade 9 links

Pol Pot in Cambodia – Intelligent and educated people

Taliban in Afghanistan – against the education of women>

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A passion for travel. A strong academic record. And the desire to improve the world as you experience it. If this sounds like you, you just might be our ideal candidate! Start your application with a five-minute inquiry form - you never know where you might end up.

It all starts here.

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