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Human Rights and Freedom from State Tyranny: Study Questions

Suggested Review Questions and Activities

Teachers: The following are questions and activities that can be given to your students after they read the materials in each section. The questions are meant to be asked as a review exercise, although some encourage critical thinking as well. The activities can be presented as classroom exercises or as individual homework assignments. Unlike the questions, they tend to require additional research. Some call for students to create mock trials or debates that would engage the entire class. Both the questions and the activities are formatted so that they might be used directly by students, although you may rewrite them as you feel necessary.

Essential Principles


Are human rights truly universal? What is the basis for universality in political and philosophical theory? Are there exceptions to the need to adhere to human rights standards?


Compare economic and human rights statistics (e.g., the UN Development Program's Human Development Index and Freedom House's annual Freedom in the World survey). Is there a correlation between human rights, democracy, and economic well-being? Are there alternate explanations for such a correlation? Are there exceptions to this correlation?



How can human rights improvements be achieved in the context of military force? Has this phenomenon occurred in Indonesia? In which areas has Indonesia most successfully improved human rights?


Choose an example of a country with a successful transition to democracy. Using sources such as the Economist, examine the reforms this country's leaders carried out to restructure the security forces (i.e., to establish civilian leadership, impose humane practices, and teach basic human rights standards). Did Indonesia carry out any of these reforms?



Have human rights improved since Moroccan independence? Why or why not?


Compare the similarities and differences in the human rights situations in Indonesia and Morocco. Now look at the Freedom in the World rankings. What explains the differences in the rankings? Do you agree with them? Why or why not? Defend your position to the class.

North Korea


How does North Korea's government use the economy, and especially food supplies, to control the population? Does this constitute a human rights abuse? Why or why not?


Korea's history is mainly one of harsh dynastic rule and a rigid aristocratic structure. The Japanese occupation was a further trauma for Koreans. Yet the South democratized while the North developed into a totalitarian state. What explains the differences between the paths taken by North and South Korea, considering that the countries share a common history? Were external influences (such as American and Soviet foreign policies) the most important factors? What lessons about democratic development can be learned? Can these lessons be applied to China?