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Too Many Innocents Abroad

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  • Stephen Schaffer
    NY Times op ed piece should provoke comments. http://www.nytimes.com/2008/01/09/opinion/09strauss.html?_r=1&scp=1&sq=peace+corps&oref=slogin I think he s
    Message 1 of 6 , Jan 9, 2008
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      NY Times op ed piece should provoke comments.

      http://www.nytimes.com/2008/01/09/opinion/09strauss.html?_r=1&scp=1&sq=peace+corps&oref=slogin

      I think he's missing the fact that someone with a new perspective and
      little baggage (academic or ego) can contribute mightily to helping
      solve problems and moving the ball forward.

      Though I've got 50+ years under my belt, I know from previous work on
      ideation and other problem solving processes, injecting new people --
      especially from different backgrounds than the local populace, can
      make a mighty difference.
    • lwaters510
      I read the op-ed piece- My riposte- If the writer was country Ddirector, why couldn t he see to it that PCV s were able work on second projects if they were
      Message 2 of 6 , Jan 9, 2008
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        I read the op-ed piece- My riposte- If the writer was country
        Ddirector, why couldn't he see to it that PCV's were able work on
        second projects if they were teachers- or help them in their projects so
        they can accomplish more?
        --- In NorCalPCA@yahoogroups.com, "Stephen Schaffer" <sjschaff@...>
        wrote:
        >
        > NY Times op ed piece should provoke comments.
        >
        >
        http://www.nytimes.com/2008/01/09/opinion/09strauss.html?_r=1&scp=1&sq=p\
        eace+corps&oref=slogin
        >
        > I think he's missing the fact that someone with a new perspective and
        > little baggage (academic or ego) can contribute mightily to helping
        > solve problems and moving the ball forward.
        >
        > Though I've got 50+ years under my belt, I know from previous work on
        > ideation and other problem solving processes, injecting new people --
        > especially from different backgrounds than the local populace, can
        > make a mighty difference.
        >
      • lwaters510
        I read the op-ed piece- My riposte- If the writer was country Ddirector, why couldn t he see to it that PCV s were able work on second projects if they were
        Message 3 of 6 , Jan 9, 2008
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          I read the op-ed piece- My riposte- If the writer was country
          Ddirector, why couldn't he see to it that PCV's were able work on
          second projects if they were teachers- or help them in their projects so
          they can accomplish more?
          --- In NorCalPCA@yahoogroups.com, "Stephen Schaffer" <sjschaff@...>
          wrote:
          >
          > NY Times op ed piece should provoke comments.
          >
          >
          http://www.nytimes.com/2008/01/09/opinion/09strauss.html?_r=1&scp=1&sq=p\
          eace+corps&oref=slogin
          >
          > I think he's missing the fact that someone with a new perspective and
          > little baggage (academic or ego) can contribute mightily to helping
          > solve problems and moving the ball forward.
          >
          > Though I've got 50+ years under my belt, I know from previous work on
          > ideation and other problem solving processes, injecting new people --
          > especially from different backgrounds than the local populace, can
          > make a mighty difference.
          >
        • russianplane
          A good friend forwarded that article to me this morning and, I have to say, I didn t like it. Some of what he has to say is correct, but I feel like the whole
          Message 4 of 6 , Jan 9, 2008
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            A good friend forwarded that article to me this morning and, I have to
            say, I didn't like it.

            Some of what he has to say is correct, but I feel like the whole tone
            is wrong. As a former Peace Corps Country Director, Strauss should
            know better. Development has never been the end goal of Peace Corps,
            but only a third of a broader goal of cultural exchange in order to
            foster peace. I think he's justified in asking for evaluations of work
            there, but so much of the work -- as my CD has pointed out many times
            -- is intangible and could never be translated to an evaluation that
            would mean anything to people back in Washington.

            As to asking the "clients" of Peace Corps what they think, there's
            probably no better feedback then President Enkhbayer of Mongolia
            asking for 1,000 PCVs each year. I can't believe the Mongolian program
            is unique in it's effect on the people where Peace Corps serves, nor
            it's support from the country of service in general. Yes, the kids who
            go to Peace Corps are, generally, young and naive, but that is partly
            why they are so successful. Having seen a lot of money wasted and
            thrown away on unsuccessful development "professionals" who swoop into
            countries for a brief time and dictate polity to sovereign states or
            develop programs of questionable effectiveness, the Peace Corps model
            of people living deep within and with a community in the country and
            responding to local needs and requests seems to me downright
            enlightened in comparison.

            I still say, pound for pound, dollar for dollar, Peace Corps is the
            most effective program the United States has in terms of Foreign
            Policy. The goodwill that Volunteers create around the world does more
            for our image than just about anything else.

            Best regards,
            Sean
            Mongolia 2005-2007
          • Daniel Marlay
            Yes, I read this article, and I m somewhat torn on it. On the one hand, I can see his point that sending people in with no experience and only a crash course
            Message 5 of 6 , Jan 9, 2008
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              Yes, I read this article, and I'm
              somewhat torn on it. On the one hand, I can see his point that sending
              people in with no experience and only a crash course on whatever might not be
              the best role. I manage volunteers for a living, and I must say, some of
              the best volunteers I get are the recently retired ones. I think PC has
              recognized this, and is making a more concerted push to recruit older
              volunteers. The idea that PC is only for 20-somethings is, of course,
              false.



              Nonetheless, I saw directly the effects that fresh-out-of-college volunteers
              had in Suriname .
              The author makes the comment that in many of these countries, there are such
              things as educated people, and quality English teachers. That may be the
              case in the cities, but in Suriname ,
              most of the volunteers are sent to the deep interior. In most of the
              interior, there is no education higher than the 6th grade, in some spots,
              nothing past the 3rd grade, and in others, no schools at all. Students
              who want to continue their education have to move to the city, and usually
              never come back. The effect is a brain drain, and for the most part, the
              people who still populate the interior have little schooling. In places
              like this, where people still live without electricity or running water, their schools
              and clinics are in shoddy condition, and the people have never really had
              access to information about health issues like clean drinking water, birth
              control, and nutrition, this is where PCVs, even without much work experience,
              still make a huge impact. Across
              Suriname 's interior, PCVs have done
              numerous projects to install rain catchment systems, renovate schools, educate
              people about the things I mentioned above (and many others), and start
              income-generation projects. While a goal of "educating the
              people" can sometimes be difficult to enumerate, as it is somewhat
              subjective, the impact of clean drinking water projects is immediately and
              easily measurable.



              I am of the understanding that one of the major requests that PC countries have
              been placing, is for volunteers with computer experience. In developing
              countries, the internet is quickly becoming a popular commodity. While
              most PCVs do not necessarily have deep technical experience in setting up
              computer networks, any recent college graduate has ample experience in using
              the internet, word processing, and excel. One of my projects was to be a
              point person for a new computer center in my school. While I did not set
              up the computers, nor do I have any networking experience, I still was able to
              teach students who had never seen a computer the basics. For people not
              brought up in a world that includes computers, even the basics can take a
              while. It was somewhat surreal to me that students who took the bus to
              school from about four miles away, who had no electricity or running water,
              were able to go online and chat with teens in the
              Netherlands .



              One of my other thoughts is that even if it is not sustainable, sometimes the
              impact of just having another body to do the work is helpful. When you are
              building a school, or digging latrines, or whatever, sometimes just being a
              part of that effort, even if one person on a twenty-person team, is a huge
              help.



              Finally, PC has three goals. Two thirds of those goals are cultural
              exchange. The sustainable development angle is the first one, but let's
              not forget about the other two goals. Certainly all of my friends and
              acquaintances know more about Suriname
              because I was there, and I know more about the
              Philippines than the average
              American since my parents were PCVs there. And while I was not the only
              American in my community, numerous people in Moengo ,
              Suriname have a deeper
              understanding of America
              and its people because of my service.



              Still, I think it is a valid point that PC should continually evaluate itself
              to determine if what it does is effective, and where it is weak, to strengthen
              it.



              Daniel Marlay

              Suriname
              '01-'03 (and fresh out of college when I did it)



              ----- Original Message ----
              From: lwaters510 <lwaters510@...>
              To: NorCalPCA@yahoogroups.com
              Sent: Wednesday, January 9, 2008 2:13:33 PM
              Subject: [NorCalPCA] Re: Too Many Innocents Abroad














              I read the op-ed piece- My riposte- If the writer was country

              Ddirector, why couldn't he see to it that PCV's were able work on

              second projects if they were teachers- or help them in their projects so

              they can accomplish more?

              --- In NorCalPCA@yahoogrou ps.com, "Stephen Schaffer" <sjschaff@.. .>

              wrote:

              >

              > NY Times op ed piece should provoke comments.

              >

              >

              http://www.nytimes com/2008/ 01/09/opinion/ 09strauss. html?_r=1& scp=1&sq= p\

              eace+corps&oref= slogin

              >

              > I think he's missing the fact that someone with a new perspective and

              > little baggage (academic or ego) can contribute mightily to helping

              > solve problems and moving the ball forward.

              >

              > Though I've got 50+ years under my belt, I know from previous work on

              > ideation and other problem solving processes, injecting new people --

              > especially from different backgrounds than the local populace, can

              > make a mighty difference.

              >














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            • Peter Montalbano
              ... the number of volunteers to plummet. The name of the game has been getting volunteers into the field, qualified or not.
              Message 6 of 6 , Jan 9, 2008
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                I'm not really offended by this article. Strauss makes several good points: Regarding Peace Corps tightening up recruitment standards, he writes:
                >>The Peace Corps has resisted doing this for fear that it would cause
                the number of volunteers to plummet. The name of the game has been
                getting volunteers into the field, qualified or not.<<
                I've seen that, in spades, as well as plenty of examples of other criticisms he makes--that the agency has no good setup for self-criticism, and that a lot of jobs are not appropriate for the needs of the country. I would add that a lot of jobs are no jobs at all, that a person is just dumped in a place and left to his/her own devices, which works sometimes, but probably more often not.
                It's OK to say that international development is only one of the three goals of the Peace Corps; it's quite another to say that that goal should be neglected, or suffer because of a sloppy bureaucratic mindset. If it's worth doing, it's worth doing right, isn't that what our old grandpappy used to say?

                I also believe that the Corps could be more selective. I've certainly seen a disarming number of volunteers out there who didn't seem to be on a path to contributing to any one of the three goals. But having come from an early group, when the selection process was pretty draconian, I will say that getting that part right is damn hard to do. One problem for me with Strauss's concept comes up in his suggestion that recruitment be done the way modern corporations do it, culling the "best" students from the "best" universities. Best of the best, yes, but I hope we all can agree that academic accomplishment isn't necessarily much of an indicator of how someone will do up-country. Who should be the "decider" on who is recruited, and who gets to go? I completely agree that whoever goes, over 50 or not, should have "skills and personal characteristics (which) are a solid fit for the needs of the host country."

                All in all, the article reinforces my own opinion that our beloved institution is drifting, lacking in clear and clearly needed direction.

                Peter Montalbano
                Thailand '65-67, Crisis Corps 2005



                ----- Original Message ----
                From: Stephen Schaffer <sjschaff@...>
                To: NorCalPCA@yahoogroups.com
                Sent: Wednesday, January 9, 2008 10:25:15 AM
                Subject: [NorCalPCA] Too Many Innocents Abroad














                NY Times op ed piece should provoke comments.



                http://www.nytimes com/2008/ 01/09/opinion/ 09strauss. html?_r=1& scp=1&sq= peace+corps& oref=slogin



                I think he's missing the fact that someone with a new perspective and

                little baggage (academic or ego) can contribute mightily to helping

                solve problems and moving the ball forward.



                Though I've got 50+ years under my belt, I know from previous work on

                ideation and other problem solving processes, injecting new people --

                especially from different backgrounds than the local populace, can

                make a mighty difference.














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