Graduate MFA Student Studying Peace Corps “Deselection”

In her last year as an undergraduate, Kathleen Kanne, began to write about the training experiences of 1960s and 1970s Peace Corps Volunteers, specifically focusing on the controversial phenomenon of “Deselection.” The result was a 25 page academic paper that won the 2014 Best Senior Thesis award in the American Studies undergraduate program at the University of Minnesota.

This summer, Kathleen is a graduate student in the Augsburg Creative Nonfiction MFA program and working on expanding the original idea into an investigative memoir about early Peace Corps training. She is collecting stories that Trainees are willing to share about their experiences. She is also “relaunching” her efforts to obtain actual training documents.

Recently she wrote, “Thank you so much for your help with the initial paper. My inbox is open again, so if you would let people know that I want to interview them about  deselection or training psychology, feel free to send them my way! Kathleen Kanne’s email is:
 (I’ve attached a copy of her 25 page academic paper. If you have any thoughts or critiques as someone who was involved, please let Kathleen know.)


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  • Kathleen Kanne is an excellent writer who has captured the anguish of early Peace Corps trainees who saw members of their training group abruptly“gone” because of the deselection process. She also describes well, I believe, the intimidation, anxiety and anger Peace Corps trainees felt about the constant observation, whether they were ultimately selected or not. She is highly critical of this use of this psychological testing and observations used during the early days of Peace Corps training. Kanne is not a RPCV, rather her mother was a member of Korea IV, 1967-69. Kanne attended reunions of the group and became interested in deselection as a result.

    Her challenge, now, as I see it is to put these observations into a historical context. Kanne did not have time or resources to research comprehensively the early training. She was not aware of the legislative mandate to do background checks on all trainees. She was not aware of the prohibition on any contact, let alone employment, between intelligence gathering agencies, like the CIA, and those applying to become Peace Corps Volunteers. She does not mention the importance of language training or the early physical endurance training and their relationship to selection.
    She does make one historical mistake and that is to state that the
    first few Peace Corps missions were all male.

    I urge RPCVs to email her with their opinions and comments. I wish her well.

    • You Joanne are on target in your comments. Dr Brewster Smith was in charge of early psychological evaluation criteria. He followed our Ghana I (1961) group all his subsequent professional and personal years until death some years back now in this 21st century to see for himself if there could indeed be a one-size-fits-all bill-of-criteria. Brewster told Tom Livingston, Marion Morrison, myself and others that after all his follow-up he found nothing that was certain to be a gold-plate profile to suss-out future successful peace corps volunteers. He ended teaching at the University of California in Santa Cruz where he and his wife Debbie retired. We would go down and visit him there. Another of our group of Ghana I, Georgianna Shine McGuire residing in the Washington, D.C. area, may have very much to add.

    I believed in progress, in the basic goodness of persons.
    There was a stranger within me, an intruder who was not
    me, yet part of me, who swallowed as I drank.
    I’ve lived as if it will die when I die.
    I now begin to see that my ‘stranger’
    inside me is the sharpie fine-pointed pen
    “I” wrote with, but really is a life force who led,
    encouraged, lifted me through my nights.
    This is not mythic: it is here now. I pass
    out of history: this continues. While I live
    I am steward, mechanic, actor, helper.
    I matter; my actions matter; my thoughts matter.
    In my ending my beginning is organized into this
    great matter. Peace is a place in every breath.
    We need to utter it ‘now’ while we can.
    We didn’t invent ourselves nor get it off the grass
    way back down that long winding longing line.
    We have been seeking to be a people from the
    beginning of our supposed origins. Will we end
    before we have exploded and regrouping merged?
    Staying home doesn’t mean some kind of surrender.
    New definitions for older versions are visions bound in blood .
    Toil can re-make the rainbow to re-arc the bridge hope.
    Peace is a place in every breath.
    © copyright Edward Mycue


      October blooms in May,wincing.
      Grey water gleams in the sun.
      There was a dream on this place, sleeping.
      Year in, out, everywhere you’d look,
      listen, there was something to be felt here
      — an old feeling but not so old to seem new.

      We have been waiting
      to gather with both hands.
      Even the trees the walls of trees are waiting
      for before our time began
      in the wind, before anyone tried damming the river
      there was life in the trees. Not today?

      © Copyright Edward Mycue

  • I was in one of the early groups of trainees assigned for all training at Camp Radley, Puerto Rico in the mid-60’s. I was expecting to be assigned to the Dominican Republic where I was to teach folks how to operate a variety of construction equipment. When I was called in and advised I had been deselected by the guy from Johns Hopkins, I asked why and was told, “You are blunt, straightforward, have too much aggressive drive and ambition. You are too unemotional and you do not know when to quit.” It was a negative that I successfully completed all of the assigned challenges while staying within the rules. Such a deal. It was still a great month in Puerto Rico and I met some really good folks that I still wish well. The biggest compliment I had from the training was during the deselection process when I asked based on my evaluations and the lack of desire on my part to change their conclusions, what career they would they recommend I pursue and I was told, “I think you would have an outstanding career as a Marine Corps officer.” Unfortunately, I did not have a degree and could not obtain one before I aged out.

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