Community Service: Values and Action

February 1, 2001

This is a course that, by building on learning through service to an area of community need, will offer an opportunity to explore our own assumptions, values, questions, and beliefs regarding some of the key issues in social philosophy and ethics. As the service component we will each find areas or projects where we can help–and learn–with the Dixwell Area Community Development project. At class meetings we will share our experiences and any questions or insights they are raising for us. These discussions will be enhanced by course readings, films, and class projects.. Each student should keep a running journal of questions/insights raised by any aspect of the course, the reading, the service, or indeed where relevant, by anything else going on in the world, the news, etc. “Position and Question” papers should be handed in in connection with each week’s reading, and class work; these will be handed back with comments and suggestions, as part of the “raw material” for a term paper reflecting on your experience of this course and exploring its implications (“so what?”), which will be due during final exam week. Further information to be provided later.

To begin with, we shall read Compassion in Action by Ram Das Oust read the part he wrote, the first ca. 150 pages). Keep a written record of any questions, issues, ideas, etc. that reading this raises for you, about your own reasons for being involved in service, the ways in which you are exploring your own limits to what you can/would/should do, the nature of your attitudes and relationships with others of “different” background than your own, and–as always–any further questions or ideas Ram Das’s story raises about your own life and values. This book and the ‘T & Q” paper on it should be completed by mid-term.

We shall also be exploring issues of values–including our own– and their role in our lives, the nature and role of assumptions and stereotypes, issues of justice, rights, the nature of “the good society”, right/wrong, and “what should be done?”. In this we shall use selections (hopefully provocative) from the Bible, Socrates, Aristotle, Jefferson, Kant, Mill, Marx, Nietzsche, the UN Declaration of Human Rights, Sartre, Friedman, and from the Feminist and Third (and Fourth) World critiques of Western expereince, philosophy and human rights-Micheal Harrington, Carol Gilligan, Franz Fanon, Charlotte Brunch, Amartya Sen, Vinay Lal, as well as the films Zoned fbr Slavery and Pridiana. .

For the first 3 weeks we shall begin at 5:PM, working with the Dixwell project at the police substation at 26 Charles St, New Haven, followed by a (hopefully not overly long) class meeting at QC. After the third Monday–the community meeting on public safety for which the first two of the community meetings are preparation–we will determine how and when our service work with – ‘ will continue; there are several other projects among which we will be able to choose, once we have become more familiar with the people, issues, and projects involved. From the fourth Monday on, we shall meet every-other week in class, with learning-through- service for a minimum of 4 hours during each of the intervening weeks (time and nature of service to be worked out between each of us and the director of the Project; you are of course welcome to undertake more than the required bi-weekly 4 hours).

School: Quinnipiac Valley Community College
Professor: Benjamin Page
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