What if returning Peace Corps Volunteers had run the agency from the earliest days? Would it have made a good and great difference? I say, “Absolutely!” What do you think? Read what the author of the original “In, Up, and Out” wrote in 1961 and says now.
Dr. Robert Textor, Editor of “Cultural Frontiers of the Peace Corps“, was a young anthropologist when Peace Corps hired him in the Spring of 1961. During his tenure, he helped design the training programs for Malaya One and other Far East operations. He also worked on the Talent Search to find talented Americans to become country “Representatives.” Almost as a “participant observer” of the emerging Peace Corps culture, he turned his trained eye on its developing programs. And from that perspective, he wrote the original memo advocating an “In, Up, and Out” policy for the Peace Corps, which became the basis for the “Five Year Rule.” But there is much difference between what Dr. Textor advocated and what was finally implemented. Read the original memo here. Note how his proposal called for the agency to be staffed by the best and the brightest of the RPCVs. Then read Dr. Textor’s brilliant essay posted this month on his website, describing the history of the policy and its relevance to the current discussion on reforming the Peace Corps. The link to his webpage no longer is working for this essay. However, it can still be read on the Textor webpage that Stanford University has maintained.
google: Textor and Stanford to reach his home page. Then click on “Publications.”
December 11, 1961
To: Franklin H. Williams
Talent Search Panel
From: Robert B. Textor, PDO/FE
Subject: A Plan to Keep the Peace Corps Permanently Young,
Creative and Dynamic
1. Recommendations for Immediate Implementation:
a. Recommend that each new appointee to an overseas Representative
job be told that the Peace Corps is not a life-long career; that he will have to
move on after a few years, to make room for a deserving PCV alumnus.
b. Recommend [members of the Planning and Evaluation staff] be
asked to keep their eyes open on field trips for promising qualified PCVs
who might be promoted to Associate, Deputy, or Representative jobs, where
needed, even before they have completed their full two-year hitches.
2. Recommendations for Implementation During 1962:
a. Recommend that PC seek amendment to the Peace Corps Law to
provide that PC may set up its own autonomous personnel system. As
justification, it could be pointed out that PC, like the State Department, has
peculiar needs and functions, and therefore should be independent of the
Civil Service Commission.
b. Recommend that the new autonomous PC Personnel system
(1) Almost all substantive jobs in PC should be filled, as soon
as possible, by qualified PCV alumni. A “substantive” job is a
job – high or low – which influences the shape and gusto of PC
programs, e.g., officers in Recruitment, Selection, Training, and
Program Development and Operations, including overseas
(2) PCV alumni, and all other staff employees, should follow
the principle of “in-up-out.” The law should set a maximum
number of years – perhaps eight years – after which all staffers
are required to leave and find jobs elsewhere.
3. Advantages of this Plan:
a. Excellence: Only the “cream-of-the-cream” of PCV alumni would
be chosen for staff jobs.
b. Sound Programs: Programs would be planned by ex-PCVs who
have fresh valid field experience, who know field conditions intimately.
Impetuous, impractical, and unsound projects would thereby by avoided.
c. Effective Field Operations: Our Peace Corps Representatives would
really know the language, customs, politics, family systems, economics, etc.,
of the host country, having learned all this as PCVs. PCRs’ orders would be
sound, because the men giving the orders would already have been through
the experience of having taken orders.
d. High Morale: A Volunteer would know that he has a chance for a
later staff position if he performs well, shows leadership, and truly masters
the language and customs of the host country.
e. Elimination of Inappropriate Applicants: This plan would
discourage applicants who might be looking for a cushy life-long berth
where promotion depends on seniority rather than dynamic creativity.
f. Facilitation of Careers: Because of the eight-year limitation, there
would always be “room at the top” for deserving staffers. PCV alumni
could therefore move up rapidly.
g. Impact on Foreign Policy: The “in-up-out” principle would result
in immense benefit to American foreign policy. Young ex-staffers would
move rapidly into jobs in State and AID, in foundations and universities, etc.
And they would move in at high levels of responsibility, because they would
already have worked at high levels of responsibility in PC. Thus we would
reduce by many years the time it would otherwise take to make our impact
felt at policy levels within key organizations connected with U.S. foreign
h. Youthfulness: Above all, this plan would make PC the first
organization in U.S. administrative history that was not only born young,
but stayed young!
A mystery to me is why was this memo ignored?