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Seniors Learn About Rules of War
By Kari Johnson
UW-RF News Bureau
NOV. 5, 2004--Many silver heads listen attentively to Ogden Rogers, an
associate professor and chair of the University of Wisconsin-River Falls
Social Work program, while he discusses the relevancy of the Geneva Convention
during the era of "nontraditional" warfare—the war on
terror—as he guest lectures during a fall offering of the Senior
Through the UW-River Falls Outreach and Graduate Studies program, the
Senior Outreach Studies program covers such topics as the war on terror,
foreign relations, land conservation, globalization, Peace Corps, the
Internet generation, fourth-way psychology and more.
Offering classes for those 50 or older, the program, now in its 18th year,
provides an opportunity to learn and share for the residents of the St.
Croix Valley. Seminars this year include a geological tour of the Rock
Elm meteorite by plant and earth science Professor Bill Cordua as well
as a day trip to the Mill City museum in Minneapolis.
In this environment Rogers as well as other faculty throughout the year
share the world with those Rogers considers to be "the greatest generation."
While Rogers is a professor at UW-RF, he is also a senior volunteer adviser
to the American Red Cross's International Services Division.
This past summer, the International Committee of the Red Cross, headquartered
in Geneva, Switzerland, selected Rogers to attend the 22nd Advanced School
in International Humanitarian Law outside of Warsaw, Poland.
"I was honored to be selected and to be involved in this advanced
course," said Rogers. "I had the wonderful opportunity of being
a student with 45 other students from 41 nations in Western and Eastern
Europe and North America. I came away from the experience with a renewed
appreciation for the Geneva Conventions."
Rogers has a lifelong involvement with the International Red Cross, which
led to his involvement with the Geneva Conventions.
"Throughout my life, I have always had some relationship with the
Red Cross," he says. As a child he was a blood services volunteer
and eventually became a first-aid instructor, a lifeguard and a blood
donor. His early experiences helped establish his worldview to help individuals
and larger concerns, serving the Pierce County Chapter of the American
Red Cross at the local level in international services.
His involvement at the international level and his interest in the Geneva
Conventions was initially influenced by his students. "Some years
ago I took some of my college students to the Twin Cities to take a weekend
course on the Geneva Conventions…and then held a focus group afterward,"
recalls Rogers. "I was amazed at how angry they were.
"At first, I thought I’d made a terrible blunder and wasted
a precious weekend for them. Exploring the anger, I was surprised to find
its source in, well, as one student put it: ‘I can’t believe
I got all the way to my sophomore year in college and I’m just hearing
about this very important law.’ This is about justice, fairness,
simple humanity, the students said. They were angry they had not covered
this material in high school. They were not alone, many Americans are
largely ignorant of the basic rules of the Geneva Conventions."
The feedback from Rogers' students acted as a springboard, driving him
to become involved with understanding the Geneva Conventions and the issues
of humanitarian law.
It is important to understand the Geneva Conventions, Rogers says. "In
a world where armed conflict doesn't appear to be going away, we need
to find ways of trying to protect the most vulnerable in any way we can…
and people need to have an understanding and appreciation for the Geneva
Rogers notes that today's younger generations may not understand the conventions
because they have lived in a period of relative peace. "I think that
previous generations of Americans, specifically the generation that lived
through World War II and Korea, actually had a greater understanding of
the Geneva Conventions, because they have lived through major armed conflict
and have seen some of the results of the conventions."
The SOS class has wisdom to share, says Rogers, and are different from
the traditional classroom of younger students. "The students in that
program are some of the brightest and most challenging minds one ever
In today's conditions, most notably the war in Iraq, the reality of armed
conflict becomes highly apparent and the need to understand the Geneva
Conventions is very important. It is in these situations that the Geneva
Conventions can be applied and show that "even in the face of war,
even in the chaos of war, humans are capable of acting with basic humanity."
A 22-hour Exploring Humanitarian Law (EHL) curriculum introduces students
of all ages to the rationales and reasoning for providing basic human
rights to combatants, civilians and prisoners of war. Under development
for the last 10 years in Geneva, EHL has been a worldwide effort to disseminate
information about the Geneva Conventions and humanitarian law.
Rogers has assisted with the adoption and coordination of the curriculum
to meet the educational standards in American school systems. EHL's application
in the United States is currently in its second trial year and has been
a success. Between 10,000-15,000 students in the United States are participating
in the program.
The curriculum is being taught in area schools in western Wisconsin. Ellswortdh,
Wis., high school teacher Mark Stoesz says, "The issues involved
in the international humanitarian law are often overlooked by American
educational institutions. I was excited about the opportunity to contribute
to finding ways by which the Geneva Conventions can be introduced to American
teachers and students."
Through the introduction of the Exploring Humanitarian Law curriculum
in the United States and his work as senior volunteer advisor, Rogers
hopes "to reach out in those places where individuals and society
have needs of each other."
Rogers reaches out by sharing his experience an expertise with others,
from area high schools and area seniors to across the globe. As the class
adjourns for the day, Rogers asks his audience to "leave those chestnuts
to rattle around in your brains." When that happens, then he has
accomplished his goal.
Tuesday, 22-Jun-2010 16:21:17 Central Daylight Time