For this post, I am going to do a reflection. Kahne and Westheimer’s “In the Service of What?” really got me thinking about the ideas of charity versus change. Reflecting on my experiences, I realize that I have been a part of a lot of charity, but I really want to help create change.
In high school, I remember feeling like I was a good person. I had been super involved in the Community Service Club, and became its president my senior year. I loved it, but I remember having issues with the new policy in the school requiring community service hours, because I didn’t think it should count as volunteering if you were forced to do it. I also had brought a chapter of Best Buddies, an organization that creates friendships and hopes to eliminate some barriers between students with developmental disabilities and students without them. While the organization has a mission of putting itself out of business, and can be change-oriented (and did create some change even within my school as far as leading to a Unified Sports team and the special education department becoming less isolated from the rest of the school), it seemed like a lot of students who took part in it were doing so out of pity or because it was a “nice thing to do.” Part of me felt like they were right, it was nice, but the other part of me was sort of annoyed and wondering if we were all missing the point. I had to question my own ideas and beliefs as well. As I left high school and stopped being involved, I wondered if I had become less of a good person. I mean, I wasn’t doing so much for other people anymore, so what else could that mean?
I think Kahne and Westheimer really just gave me the words to think about and formalize these questions and problems that I’d had, and also to examine how my perspectives have shifted. For example, they talked about how acts of charity create a distance between the one acting and the one “receiving,” and how this creates a perception of those on the receiving end of charity as “clients.” I don’t think charities are bad, exactly, they can help in crisis situations and that’s important. I just also now understand that what I am really looking to be a part of is change. This class and this text are fueling the idea that I don’t want to think in terms of “those in need” and “those less fortunate,” but in terms of systemic privileges and disadvantages that affect us all, and I am not always sure how to do that. I know that, as we talked about in class, change does not always make you feel like a “good person” as charity did for me in the past, but I hope I will practice what I preach as I move forward and be a part of change anyway.