Does Peace Corps Refute False Information? Evidently not.
When an errorous statement is published about the Peace Corps and our experience knows the statement is not true, what should the response be?
A professor had written a book about federal agencies and included the Peace Corps with glowing praise, but he also wrote that only men were sent to Puerto Rico for Outward Bound Training. I had no success in convincing him to include that women also went to Puerto Rico for that vigorous training.
More recently, an RPCV friend explained to me that she had received an inquiry from a student in Europe writting about the history of Peace Corps. He had learned in a conference that Peace Corps had intervened in the Netherlands in 1962 and stayed for ten years He later said it found the same information in an AI website. That statement about Peace Corps is not true.
It was time to query Peace Corps about what to do. Accordingly, I made a FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) request. I requested:
Documents which indentify the employee or office responsible to correct information about Peace Corps which is wrong and could endanger serving PCVs. For example, published information stating they are working for military intelligence. I am concerned about books/articles being published not authorized by Peace Corps, but include items about Peace Corps which if not true, need to be refuted.
On March 20, I was asked to provide the following clarification:
No, I am not asking about materials which Peace Corps has officially publishing or even prepared, I am concerned about books/articles being published not authorized by Peace Corps, but include items about Peace Corps which if not true, need to be refuted.
Here is the Response:
A search was conducted within the Office of External Affairs (EA); however, we did not locate any responsive records. The Director of EA stated that Peace Corps does not request private citizens to retract any information they publish about the Peace Corps. Only on rare occasions, will the Office of EA request domestic news media outlets to clarify misinformation.
12 CommentsLeave a comment
I went through Outward Bound Training at Camp Crozier, Puerto Rico, February 1963. We were an all male contingent of potential Volunteers. Down the road to Camp Crozier was Camp Radley and at the time, it was largely composed of female Volunteers.
My training group was composed of all females. We did not go to Puerto Rico, we trained at the Peace Corps Training Facility at the University of New Mexico. That summer of 1963, there were some 300 trainees preparing for service in various South American countries. We were Colombia XI, Health Education/Community Development for Colombia. We did all the Outward Bound Training that the men did. as did all the female members of all the coed groups. We trained with the same schedule and shared most of the classroom activities with an all male group going not to Colombia, but to Ecuador.
The final four weeks of training were spent in Northen New Mexico in the beautiful Fall, housed in a ski lodge. Both Ecuador V and Colombia XI were together, sometimes literally, in that setting and sometimes in CD village settings. Evidently, training an all female group and an all male group together and then sending them to different countries.was a “brilliant” idea which Peace Corps Washington decided, I hope, not to repeat.
The important fact is that all Peace Corps women did all the Outward Bound training from the very beginning just the same as men. I remember recently when 60 Minutes highlighted the Navy Seal’s training which included “drown proofing”, my group email lit up. We decided if we had been “selected out of Peace Corps”. we could always have joined the Navy!
I was in Colombia 3, a group of both male and female volunteers. We were an Urban Community Development group. We were the group that helped to build the obstacle course at Camp Radley. Incidentally, my husband was in Colombia 4, a group of physical education PCVs and English teachers. Also included men and women. And they had to traverse the obstacle course. Both sexes has to attempt all the challenges of Outward Bound Training.
The history of the Peace Corps is a long, complicated story which I believe is best told by those who lived it. There will be errors as well as opinions. However, these lend flesh to the bones of that tale.
I do not oppose books written by others or even agencies. These certainly offer different prospectives. However, I also believe that government censorship of self-published books does not pass the smell test. Governments all utilize group-think. It’s the difference between a cheering crowd at a sports event and a quiet whisper amongst friends.
Lorenzo, In response to the statement that Peace Corps intervened in the Netherlands in 1962-The facts were documented by your excellent Peace Corps Chronology 1961 – 2010.
you listed each country in which Volunteers had served by the dates of service and the total number of Volunteers. You did not list the Netherlands as a Peace Corps country in 1962.
I appreciate your concern about government self-pubublished books. My concern is about errorous factual statements, not opinion particularly those based on RPCV experience.
Thank you for commenting, Joey. There is no Peace Corps Historian. The Peace Corps Library was dismantled decades ago. Records are spread all over in dusty, spiderweb ridden crooks and crannies. What we do have is the Amazon.com books reader comment. Any person can post comments on perceived errors and/or omissions. Prior to Amazon, only professional book critics could do this through their printed columns. Now, anyone can.
You are absolutely right about the lack of a Peace Corps Historian and Peace Corps Library. Records are all over and hard if not impossible to access. I have used the comment section on Amazon. One problem is some books are on college reading lists and Amazon comments are not.
I think the experience of every RPCV contains valuable information. I hate to know that the integrity of that experience is not protected by the Peace Corps agency.
If you feel strongly about this, contact the PC Director and request that next year’s budget contain a new post (Peace Corps Truth Analyst, GS-13 level) whose duty is to read every book and article about the PC, commenting on each. It sure sounds like something out of 1984.
Well, this is a lively discussion! Here’s the good news: youngsters really pay attention to the comments about books. I know this from my sons.
According to my research the only PC volunteers in Europe served in Russia and its satellites (Eastern Europe) after the dissolution of the U.S.S.R. However, the PC has served in many countries that speak Dutch. It is possible that there was a training center in the Netherlands. My book does not mention training centers because their history is so murky. The PC opened and closed a number of such centers as their own policies and funding changed.
I could find no reference anywhere to Peace Corps training centers in Europe in the 1960s.
My recollection was PCVs were not even allowed to visit Europe on vacation during service.
The reference to Peace Corps in the Netherlands was evidently from an AI site. I found a reference to Sri Lanka and the Netherlands. https://dutchculture.nl/en/mapping-sri-lanka-heritage-0#:~:text=The%20Dutch%20presence%20in%20Sri,year%20of%20the%20British%20occupation. The article in that link had the subtitle Sri Lanka and the Netherlands.
Sri Lanka, known as Ceylon had been a Dutch colony even though that relationship ended in th 1700’s.
As I understand it, one of the problems with the newly emerging AI system is that the ability to pick up stray phrases and pieces of information and weave them into statements which appear authentic. Could this have happened and resuted with a statement that Peace Corps intervened in the Netherlands in 1962? I don’t know. Peace Corps did send Volunteers to Sri Lanka beginning in 1962.
About AI, highlighted here what comes noggin-wise in this case is the saying maybe even 5 decades back the saying from Mary McCarthy’s novel THE GROUP made a common story of the time the saying “Who’da thunk it.”
Another is the soft satire of the phrase from the 1929 British hit novel from J. B. Priestly — THE GOOD COMPANIONS: “I believe ya. Millions wouldn’t.”
Another is from a relative, Richard Steger’s great aunt Antonia Bellone, replying to me, “Disgusted.”
Or from the play by John Arden, THE BUSINESS OF GOOD GOVERNMENT, Pontius Pilate (I played him in a play in Elsinore, Denmark in 1968 at The International People’s College at a time when Dick Downing a teacher there headed the young organization Amnesty International) saying “What is truth.?” as a statement, not a question.)
I learn to think further, writing. Does it make the thinking better? That’s an unfinished question that apart from any other consideration by AI or other else precedes an answer to the end (of questions?).