Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Development and Peace

The following quotes are from an article off The New Yorker. If you are interested in the quotes you should read it. I will respond with some responses to the quotes. This article really made me think about my purpose here and it is very well written. It has been circulating around Peace Corps blogs the last month or so. I am sorry if it is repetitive by now but it’s a great article. I hope you enjoy it!

The New Yorker: The Doorknob

“The problem with Peace Corps is that the 27-month commitment is a major deterrent for young people"

-Nicholas D. Kristof

Before joining the Peace Corps I never met anyone who was a volunteer. Most people I do know who service oriented things like the short term projects. Leaving things like family, friends, and country is very difficult. I don’t know if I call it a problem. I think the time is about right because if you are not serious about developing others this would not be too big of a deal. Development does not happen overnight, or even in a 27 month period sometimes. Development in my mind is best described as a journey.

Peace Corps Volunteers as “résumé-driven, undereducated provincial American BAs with, all too often, little or no knowledge … even in teaching (or speaking) their own native language.”

- John Brown, Former Foreign Service Officer

I understand where he is coming from here. I feel this way when it comes to teaching. I have never taught English before. Sometimes I feel underprepared to teach something about a language I just naturally speak. For example, what in the world is a modal and what is its function? This is a question I got from one of my students. I had to answer him by saying, “I am not sure. I don’t know this kind of stuff. I just speak English but I am not a teacher.” Though it seems my primary job now is to teach English. I have no clue what I am doing most of the time.

“I’ve tried to educate Congress that P.C. is not really a development program. Nor is it a cross-cultural program. It sits on a sliding scale between. It’s about living humbly and understanding, and making lifelong friends."

-Rajeev Goyal, President of Push for Peace Corps

My primary job has not been teaching English. It seems my primary job has been peace. Imagine that. We promote peace just by getting a better understanding of the people here and also them understanding our culture and country. Getting people to understand misconceptions of American culture and its people makes peace more attainable. Development is a part of my job but without living humbly or understanding I could not do development. True development is done when you are at the level of the people you are with and they trust you. That way the journey of development is done with the people, not separate. Development is great but peace is better.

Thanks for reading :)


  1. Hey Matt!

    Thanks for the link- the article was really interesting. As for Kristof's article, I remember reading it when it was published and thinking that his "idea" was just PC but shorter and without any infrastructure or support. Basically, a terrible idea. I'm just imagining Study Abroad 2.0. At least the 27 month commitment that Kristof seems to think is such a detriment keeps those types of people away from Peace Corps.

  2. Yeah. That idea doesn't seem like the best plan. Lets stick with the peace corps :)