Academic Bias on Human Rights

, Malcolm A. Kline, 1 Comment

Academics have made a cottage industry of their concern over human rights but their consciousness gets raised pretty selectively. “In August, Yale University announced a new undergraduate program in human rights,” Eric A. Posner wrote in The Chronicle Review on November 21, 2014. “It joins other human-rights programs, institutes, and clinics that have spread like kudzu across campuses in the United States and around the world.”

“By one count, the number has increased from one in 1968 to almost 150 in 2000, with most of the growth in the 1990s. The U. N. provides links to more than 300 academic institutions that offer human-rights instruction.”

Posner is a professor at the University of Chicago Law School. “But human rights clinics are different,” he writes. “They engage in a bewildering array of programs and strategies that have little in common but a left-wing orientation.”

“These include helping undocumented migrants obtain asylum; developing a best-legal-practices guide for responding to domestic violence in Mexico and Guatemala; advocating for public housing in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina; drafting a petition to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights after a local government denied dialysis funding to certain immigrants; and writing reports to help Haitian residents in the Dominican Republic who suffer from political repression and discrimination. (These examples are taken from an academic article.)”

“Other examples include a successful effort to persuade the City Council of Chicago to recognize in a resolution that domestic violence is a human-rights concern; traveling to Congo to help ensure that mining profits are shared with citizens; teaching residents of California’s Central Valley that their rights to housing, water, and political participation have been violated, and that international institutions should be helpful in vindicating them; and issuing a report that argues that laws intended to ban sex-selective abortions in various states are actually intended to reduce the number of abortions.”

Buttressing Posner’s point about the “left-wing orientation” of these programs, here, in case you aren’t keeping score, is a partial listing of countries left out of the fairly comprehensive and succinct recap he offers:

  • China
  • Cuba
  • Iran
  • Nicaragua
  • North Korea
  • Russia
  • Venezuela
  • Vietnam
  • Zimbabwe
 

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