RCAH Parents College 2014

August 8, 2014 - 8:00am - August 10, 2014 - 8:00pm
Snyder-Phillips Hall
362 Bogue Street
East Lansing, MI
United States

The third RCAH Parents College will be held from Friday, August 8, through Sunday, August 10, 2014. Interested in attending? Contact Dawn Janetzke via email or phone at (517) 884-0383 by April 11, 2014. Enrollment will be limited to 20 participants.

The previous topics have been sacrifice and forgiveness, and we discussed philosophical arguments, analyzed famous paintings, watched contemporary film, and put our heads together from virtually morning until night.

This year’s topic is charitable giving and humanitarian work. As is our custom, we will start with personal stories and experiences, and work from the inside out to more general social issues. Why should we give? What moves us to donate our time and resources? And what should we know about the organizations and causes to which we give?

Why should we give?

According to Janice K. Kopinak, who has worked on humanitarian aid projects in Africa, Asia, and the Balkans,

Over the past 15 years the number of humanitarian agencies, private organizations, governments (taxpayers), corporations, individuals and other stakeholders have grown enormously.  This group of diverse donors has differing mandates, values, goals, strategies, actors and activities, but most function under one universal humanitarian principle: to protect the vulnerable by decreasing morbidity and mortality, alleviating suffering and enhancing well-being, human dignity, and quality of life. (Journal of Humanitarian Assistance, March 2013)

This is just the first layer of the onion. What do we mean by “enhancing well-being, human dignity, and quality of life”? There are some basic needs, of course, that must be satisfied. But, even these can vary in importance from culture to culture, and beyond the most basic needs, there are other needs that are more difficult to measure. For example, does well-being depend upon feeling at home in the world? Does it require some form of effective democratic governance? Does it depend upon a proper relationship with the natural environment and non-human species? 

Why do we give

Some may claim to be moved by ‘pure’ rational arguments – they give because they have reasoned it out and done the math. But decisions like these are always a product of reasons and feelings. And appeals for humanitarian aid never come to us in purely rational forms. The language, the images, and the narratives are emotional arguments as much as they are rational arguments. How do we draw the line between a reasonable appeal to our hearts and minds and an advertising campaign that tries to take advantage of us with sad puppy dog eyes?

How effective and sustainable is charitable giving and humanitarian aid?  

Whether we are talking about emergency relief or more long term development and rehabilitation assistance, it is important to know whether our time and money are well spent. How much of the money raised by charities, for example, goes to organizational overhead? How much of the aid given to the victims of storms, earthquakes, or civil wars is siphoned off or otherwise wasted? Before we make any final decisions about giving, we want answers to these questions as well.

To spark our discussions of these questions, we will read several essays and view films that explore the meaning of well-being, dignity, and quality of life. We will examine the work of photographers and other artists who have sought to represent the need for and/or the dangers of humanitarian aid in compelling ways. Finally, we will consider some of the criticisms of charitable giving and humanitarian aid as a well-meaning but ineffective means of addressing large-scale crises and which sometimes also have unwanted unintended consequences for the needy.

The Photojournalism Project.

As we have in earlier Parents Colleges, PC III will include an exciting hands-on project done with the help of one of our local artists. This year we will be working with photographers Becky Shink and Jackie Hawthorne, who will help us represent the need for and/or dangers of charity and humanitarian aid in a compelling and personal way. After considering the work of several well-known photojournalists, we will compose our own humanitarian photo-journals using images of our own and those available on the internet. Through these projects, participants will be able to compare their own answers to the answers that other members of PC III are considering. At our closing dinner on Sunday night, we will present these projects to a panel of RCAH students for their comments and suggestions – this has been one of highlights of Parents College when parents can play the role of the student and get a firsthand understanding of what it is like to be in RCAH.

Our goal in the Parents College is not to settle on the right or even the best answers to these questions about charitable giving and humanitarian aid, but to have a better understanding of the range of possible answers by listening to one another so we can investigate them further.

Parents College participants will stay in Snyder-Phillips and dine in the Gallery cafeteria. Classes will also be held right in Snyder-Phillips, and Steve Esquith will serve as lead instructor. There will be no tuition charged, and the fees for housing and meals are as follows:

Housing and meals:

Single room: Friday, August 2 and Saturday, August 3 -- $35 per night

Double room: Friday, August 2 and Saturday, August 3 -- $25 per night per person

Meals will be a total of $75 per person for 3 meals per day for 3 days in the Gallery.

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