Laying down the law
Resistance Hip Hop. Testimonials. Documentaries. A chance to meet a great Canadian. These are images, stories and experiences Melanie Adrian’s Laws 1000 students are not likely to soon forget.
Adrian’s course explores three human rights systems – the Americas, Africa and Europe. Students examine one human rights violation in each of those areas, and trace it from the ground all the way the United Nations. Far from relying on readings and textbooks, Adrian presents her students with real life case studies that include a woman in Argentina whose three children have disappeared, and child soldiers in Africa.
“It can be kind of boring learning about institutions,” says Adrian. “But if you engage the students in the first week with a real person, a real family, a real set of circumstances, who take cases to the regional domestic courts, and from there to the regional human rights system, and from there, they take it to the UN, then the understanding and engagement is different.”
Adrian has also included an anthropological perspective to the course through the inclusion of resistance hip hop.
“It brings in that voice of resistance,” says Adrian, “and it fits in very well with the human rights themes, because it brings in someone who’s commenting on what’s happening.”
Adrian encourages her students to listen to resistance hip hop and apply it to the themes they are exploring the course. The “extra-credit challenge,” involves finding a piece of hip hop resistance music, and submitting it to Adrian for discussion in class.
“I have between two and six different submissions, typically. They have to give me the link and the lyrics and they have to write a paragraph on why they think that this particular song is important for us to listen to, and they have to make the case for it,” she says. “And at the beginning of class they come up to the front and they explain why they’ve chosen this song and how it links to that week’s themes or readings, or our general discussion.”
Adrian has also arranged for Roméo Dallaire to visit the class to discuss his book, They Fight Like Soldiers, They Die Like Children: The Global Quest to Eradicate the Use of Child Soldiers.
“He’s going to speak about child soldiers in Africa, which is exactly what we’re studying,” says Adrian. In preparation for his visit, she screened the documentary film, Blood Diamond. She hopes that Dallaire, having worked with regional human rights systems in Africa, will be able to show her students some practical realities, as he sees them.
Introduction to Law is a required course for the ArtsOne cluster, Human Rights and Democracy. The cluster focuses on politics, law and human rights, and the relationship between them.