Q: The text covers all areas and ideas of the subject appropriately and provides an effective index and/or glossary
As the title suggests, this is 'brief'. Human rights are contentious, complex, and controversial; even the most cursory introductions end up far larger than this text's modest 21 pages. As a quick review, the text is useful, but it employs largely a historical analysis--looking at the evolution of human rights discourse as notches on a timeline. Such an approach misses key junctures to be critical about the problems and failings of international human rights. As well, the text's American government authorship yields a review of human rights in a way that is lopsided, uneven, and embedded in discourses of liberal democracy.
Comprehensiveness Rating: 2 out of 5
Q: Content is accurate, error-free and unbiased
While the content is historically accurate, there is a clear bias throughout. Take, for instance, the very short discussion on human rights abuses by and in the United States. In a passing comment, the authors look to downplay the human rights record of the post-9/11 US suggesting that prisoner abuse, for instance is "isolated" and human rights violations against suspected terrorists can somehow be justified because they "are out to destroy everybody's rights".
As this is a text written by the US State Department, it also didn't take terribly long to call out North Korea, Cuba, and Burma as "systemic viola[tors] of human rights". This point is well taken, but could have been referenced, cited, and explained. Calling out specific states speaks more to the editorial bias than it does the strength of the claim.
The bias is clearest in these instances, but is probably best considered through what is omitted. Human rights are understood here as a bi-product of "civilized" and "liberal democracy". There is no reference to the Banjul Charter or other developments in to human rights discourse beyond the Western world.
I note that the material is culled from work by Jack Donnelly, one of the most prolific scholars on human rights. His text, "Universal Human Rights in Theory and Practice" is a fantastic first year Human Rights text--I've been assigned it and assigned it myself--but this selective editing of Donnelly does him no service.
Content Accuracy Rating: 2 out of 5
Q: Content is up-to-date, but not in a way that will quickly make the text obsolete within a short period of time. The text is written and/or arranged in such a way that necessary updates will be relatively easy and straightforward to implement
In general, the content is very much up to date, though a bit sketchy on the 21st century. References are made to the war on terror, but fleeting in such a way that now demand further extrapolation and discussion. Human rights as a modern concept is constantly evolving, so this text misses recent human rights struggles and protests in the Middle East such as the Arab Spring. More generally, the foundational history which is really the narrative arc of the text is up to date and not likely to demand many revisions.
Relevance Rating: 4 out of 5
Q: The text is written in lucid, accessible prose, and provides adequate context for any jargon/technical terminology used
The writing is clear and lucid, but writes in a such way that removes any semblance of complexity. There is a fine balance between writing for comprehension and academic jargon that thrives on complexity. A finer balance could have been found that allowed for more nuance when discussing the way human rights work.
Still, it is clear and easy to read.
Clarity Rating: 4 out of 5
Q: The text is internally consistent in terms of terminology and framework
Not much of a framework here--it is really just a pamphlet--but it is easy to follow. More vocabulary and terminology could have been offered and defined, but ultimately that is not the objective of this text. Instead, this is a very quick historical sketch of the underpinnings of human rights, leaving terminology for other readings.
Consistency Rating: 3 out of 5
Q: The text is easily and readily divisible into smaller reading sections that can be assigned at different points within the course (i.e., enormous blocks of text without subheadings should be avoided). The text should not be overly self-referential, and should be easily reorganized and realigned with various subunits of a course without presenting much disruption to the reader.
Not really--as a small pamphlet, it isn't likely I would assign less than the entire text for a week's reading. While there are subject headings that could be modular, the text is self-referrential and so brief that it doesn't lend itself to being broken up. I might, possibly, use the first parts, discussing history--and assign an additional reading to discuss more modern questions in human rights--but the text is hard to subdivide.
Modularity Rating: 2 out of 5
Q: The topics in the text are presented in a logical, clear fashion
The text does not have the grandiose ambitions of explaining the entire history of human rights or the way human rights norms function in the modern era, so as a result, it isn't bounded by the same conventions of organization. As a pretty modest booklet heavy on photos, the editors can follow a rough chronology and raise a few issues along the way. There are no practice questions, keywords, no index, no glossary. The goals are pretty modest and so the rough organization offered works to communicate a surface-level knowledge of the issue.
Organization Rating: 4 out of 5
Q: The text is free of significant interface issues, including navigation problems, distortion of images/charts, and any other display features that may distract or confuse the reader
There really is no interface or navigation here. A 21-page PDF, it reads like a booklet. It would be nice if the PDF had OCR and the text was searchable, so students could more easily move through the text, but at 21 pages, it is hardly essential, and material is still easily located.
Interface Rating: 3 out of 5
Q: The text contains no grammatical errors
There were no grammatical errors that I could find.
Grammar Rating: 5 out of 5
Q: The text is not culturally insensitive or offensive in any way. It should make use of examples that are inclusive of a variety of races, ethnicities, and backgrounds
As I have said, there is a clear 'Western, liberal democracy' bias coursing through the text. While it doesn't rise to cultural insensitivity for the most part, I am sure students will greet the text with skepticism.
Cultural Relevance Rating: 4 out of 5
Q: Are there any other comments you would like to make about this book, for example, its appropriateness in a Canadian context or specific updates you think need to be made?