Thursday, March 22, 2012

Pet Peeve #457

My daughter attends public school. As such, I understand that education budgets are tight. I'm all about supporting my kid's school. Book fair? I'm there. Butter Braid pastry fundraiser? I'll take three (cinnamon . . . mmmmmm). I send in snacks for the class whenever a reminder comes home. I attend the concerts and the special events. I try not to be a pain in her teacher's ass.

Recently, a note came home about a drive for hygiene products needed for local families. I promptly bought a couple tubes of toothpaste and some shampoo and sent it in. The student council held a similar drive in December and we participated then as well.

I mention all of this not to make myself sound like the most awesome mom ever, but rather to make it clear that I am not anti-charity. Obviously I've been feeding foster dogs for a dozen years now, so if I can directly help someone (someone with or without fur), I'm in. What I don't like: sending money to humongous charities and faceless causes. I do not support the American Cancer Society or the March of Dimes or any of the biggies. Why? Well, a couple of reasons. One is that the large medical-related charities do fund and support animal testing. If torturing animals in the name of science had any chance of curing cancer, I'd say it would have happened decades ago. Another is that a lot of that money is funneled into high salaries, land holdings, and other stuff not related to curing anything. Similarly, there is little evidence to support the fact that buying products that have a pink ribbon slapped on the front is helping anybody. If you know someone with breast cancer, I'd have to guess that offering to drive her to treatments and appointments would be more helpful to her than buying a random household product just because it's sporting the ubiquitous pink ribbon.

So, recently I've been in a tough spot. In the many papers that I fish out of my daughter's backpack each day, I found one for a Jump Rope for Heart event. I participated in Jump Rope for Heart myself when I was in sixth grade. We assembled in the gym and then jumped to the soothing strains of "I Love Rock-n-Roll" by Joan Jett and the Blackhearts. I'm aging myself here, aren't I? Anyway, I knew my daughter was desperate to participate in this event and get a prize. I don't particularly want to give money to the American Heart Association. So, what's a mom to do? I wrote a check for the minimum amount I could donate and for which my child would receive a prize. Yes, I compromised my ethics in the name of motherhood.

The school is now running a "penny drive" for leukemia. I recycled the information sheet (again, fished out of the cavernous backpack) and hoped my daughter would not bring it up. Well, they held an assembly about it at school so obviously I've got no prayer of burying this thing. I should add that A has a friend who is a leukemia survivor. I would not wish leukemia on any person of any age. I just don't believe that my handful of pennies will cure it. In reality, I suspect that there are a lot of entities out there that actually benefit from the very existence of cancer and have no incentive to make it go away, but I guess that is a separate rant.

I don't know - I guess it just bugs me to have pressure from my child's school to give to charity when all of our extra resources are already going to local causes (including the one for which we volunteer directly). Am I just a curmudgeon?

4 comments:

Steph K said...

I know what you mean. The kids come home from school with requests to support an activity that gives to ABC charity. How do you tell them no while trying to teach them to be charitable? They are too young to understand why we want to support XYZ charity instead of ABC charity.

If you figure it out, let me know.

Anonymous said...

Come up with a Charity Budget. X amount of dollars that you plan on giving to charitable causes through the school. Let your daughter decide which events/causes she wants to participate in and once the money is gone there is no more. She may not select causes on the same basis that you would. (Cool prizes vs actual good works.) But it will teach her to choose wisely.

Beth said...

If you're a curmudgeon, then let's start a club!

When Jason's school started selling shamrocks for the MDA, I did some quick research and found that less than 80% of their income supports their program. (http://www.charitynavigator.org/index.cfm?bay=search.summary&orgid=4134) That's not good enough for me.

I explained that to him, as best I could, and reminded him that while it's not a bad thing to support that charity, we make different choices and that most of our giving to others in need is done through our church.

Jump Rope for Heart won't be an issue because of his motor skill delays. He won't participate because he can't jump rope. But even if he could I'd do the same research before encouraging (or discouraging) his participation.

It makes sense (to me) to help him think through decisions like this, even though he's not even seven yet.

Beth said...

Adding this: I won't allow his school to make him feel guilty for not contributing, either. Last year, I actually e-mailed his principal about it.