AGENTS OF CHANGE: A Close Look at the Peace Corps by David & Meridan Bennett Hapgood

AGENTS OF CHANGE: A Close Look at the Peace Corps

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Clearheaded analysis (for the prospective volunteer or the interested citizen) by two former Peace Corps staff evaluators whose commitment to the idea of a Peace Corps doesn't blind them to its past and present failures. First tackling the charges of ""cultural imperialism,"" the authors readily admit that ""The Peace Corps is a new form of American intervention,"" one that they hope will make amends for the grosser aspects of most foreign aid administration. They then quote volunteers and cite specific cases in a detailed survey of existing programs: teaching, rural action, public health and birth control, and community development. The latter, which is the main part of the Peace Corps' ""new purpose,"" will require volunteers to act as ""agents of change"" on a larger scale than before. As one volunteer put it: their role is ""to change mens' minds, not in their thoughts about America, but in their thoughts about themselves, their surroundings, their own ability to improve them."" This is a tall order, particularly for the typical Peace Corps operative: a ""B.A. generalist,"" fresh from college, with few or no technical skills. Such volunteers have in the past often failed in rural communities, but the authors stress that changes in training and attitudes, plus luck, can make volunteers considerably more effective and thereby improve the ""volunteer experience."" A readable book that trumpets the Peace Corps as ""an anti-establishment organization funded by the establishment,"" points out considerable weaknesses, but, generally, is imbued with an optimistic glow.

Pub Date: Nov. 6th, 1968
Publisher: Little, Brown