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Title: Young people's use of rights discourse in their moral judgements
Author: Martin, Elisabeth
ISNI:       0000 0001 3619 9830
Awarding Body: Nottingham Trent University
Current Institution: Nottingham Trent University
Date of Award: 2003
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This thesis began with a series of workshops for secondary school students around issues of social and global inequality. From a general interest in how these young people formulated moral judgements, a more precise focus emerged a year later around their responses to work about the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, undertaken on behalf of the UK Conunittee for UNICEF (United Nations Children's Fund). The language of "Rights" is used widely in a range of contexts, in ways which are often contradictory. Whilst the rational and moral bases of rights discourse have always oscillated between the legal and the philosophical, the creeping use of rights language in recent times to cover claims ranging from the universal, through international and national law down to the personal, has robbed the language of its moral authority. Teachers and students alike are ill at ease with conflicting uses of rights language, with the former group seeking to forge a link between rights and responsibilities, and the latter asserting what they consider to be their rights without regard for the impact these 'rights' might have on others. The existence of a shared ethical framework is desirable both at a personal and a societal level to promote a sense of belonging and of common goals, and an agreed understanding of rights discourse could form the basis of such a framework. At present, however, the language is used as if it offered such a common understanding, whilst in reality this is far from being the case. Successive collections of data using both written and taped responses from a wide variety of individuals were used to produce an initial theory of how rights language is understood and used by adults. This material provided the basis for a larger scale data collection from Year 10 students in four East Midlands secondary schools. The range and scope of the data collected made it possible to cross-check the responses across samples so that apparent generational changes in the use of rights language could be explored. The data for the major analysis, again involving taped and written responses to ensure both breadth and depth of responses, was collected from schools selected for their vaiying values positions. Finally, the analysis of the resulting data was compared with philosophical writing around rights issues, in an attempt to further clarify potential areas of common values, as well as points of divergence. The resulting analysis of young people's use of rights language when focusing on moral issues with a potential rights dimension suggested that there is a need to clarify the shared view of humanity implicit in rights language and to rebuild a cohesive rights framework, recognising the basis and limitations of rights claims, and building the knowledge and skills necessaiy to distinguish between different rights contexts. This would enable the next generation to access the shared moral language which rights discourse has the potential to offer. The current citizenship recommendations represent a missed opportunity to consolidate young people's understanding of these issues, and this research project suggests ways in which this omission can be rectified.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Human rights