Marilyn photo

Marilyn Felt's educational Legacy

Exploring Humanitarian Law

International Humanitarian Law (IHL) consists of the Geneva Convention and additional protocols that protect both civilians and combatants involved in armed conflicts and other situations of violence. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has obtained universal acceptance of IHL and is both its guardian and promoter.

Marilyn conceptualized and developed the Exploring Humanitarian Law (EHL) curriculum for the ICRC at the Education Development Center, Inc. (EDC) In a sequence of projects, starting in 1999, EDC designed, implemented, and tested EHL. Then the ICRC disseminated it through Red Cross member societies around the world.

The EHL curriculum consists of a series of explorations that aim to improve understanding of humanitarian issue related to situations of conflict - including but not limited to war. It contributes to education in global citizenship and in human rights and to the development of life skills. The curriculum involves young people, ages 13 to 18 in the complex and difficult issues of protection of non-combatants and avoidance of inhumane behaviors in wars and other arenas of violence.

Students are guided in developing their own understandings of and their own approaches to real-world problems that have no simple, single correct solutions. EHL offers young people tools with which to assess events, both far away and close to home using the principle of human dignity as a yardstick in the hope that once they enter the adult world and assume adult responsibilities, they will defend the basic principle of human dignity in their respective spheres of influence.

The curriculum is novel not only in its subject matter but also in its pedagogy, which extends ideas that Marilyn developed earlier in her Exploring Childhood curriculum. She was always pleased that EHL's interactive discussion style was enthusiastically adopted by teachers in many countries accustomed to more traditional, lecture-based pedagogies. It is presently used in over 80 countries. This chart shows the dissemination status of EHL as of June 2005.

A chart showing the countries using EHL

ICRC's Exploring Humanitarian Law Web site provides more much more information about EHL

Marilyn summarizes the pedagogy of EHL in A Framework for Programs that Affect Attitudes and Thinking (PDF, 30KB), presented at a USAID workshop.

She provides much more detail in a series of slides The Pedagogy of Exploring Humanitarian Law: Ten Features (PDF, 2MB) presented in July 2004.

Her 2005 article Exploring Humanitarian Law: Preparing Teachers for a Pivotal Role (PDF, 300KB) (with Barbara Powell) provides much more detail both on pedagogy and on the issues involved in preparing teachers for a way of teaching quite new to most of them. Unlike traditional teaching in which the teacher presents information and works with students in mastering it, the EHL teacher presents issues, then serves as facilitator and guide, rather than subject-matter expert. Some teachers have said that they benefited as much from being introduced to this EHL pedagogy as they did from mastering the curricular material.