A TOWERING TASK — The Peace Corps Document You Have Never Read


Warren Wiggins


Unbeknownst to Sarge Shriver, who had been tasked by JFK to establish a new agency with the tentative title of “Peace Corps” in the first days of the Kennedy Administration, there were two officials in the Far Eastern division of the International Cooperation Administration (ICA) working on their “own” Peace Corps. Warren Wiggins deputy director of Far Eastern operations in ICA, still in his 30s,  with Bill Josephson, just 26, a lawyer at ICA.

The paper they prepared detailing their recommendations for the new agency they called “A Towering Task,” taking the title from the phrase Kennedy had used in his State of the Union address: “The problems . . . are towering and unprecedented — and the response must be towering and unprecedented as well.”

Shriver and Harris Wofford in early February 1961 set up a temporary, two-room headquarters in the Mayflower Hotel and a steady cast of people passed through the rooms to present ideas on how the new agency should be organized. One of the visitors handed Shriver a draft paper titled, “The Towering Task.”

That night, after midnight, Shriver settled down to read “The Towering Task” arguing against stultifying caution in planning the Peace Corps project. Shriver’s enthusiasm mounted as he followed Wiggins’ discussion to the effect that the new agency must be big enough to make an impact in each country to which it would be sent.

On finishing the paper–at 3 a.m. — Shriver immediately sent a telegram to Warren Wiggins urging him to come by the Mayflower headquarters as soon after sunrise as he could make it.

Bill Josephson

Wiggins had written the proposal in the hope that it might, as he said, “stimulate thought.” In fact, he and Josephson provided a philosophy and plan for the new Peace Corps. The Towering Task was the ‘WorkBook’ for the new agency. It is, I know, a paper that most–if not all– PCVs, RPCVs (and Staff) have never read.

The central idea expressed in the Towering Task became the blackboard of the new agency. Wiggins fundamentally disagreed with most of the academic and other institutional approaches which counseled caution and a slow beginning for the new agency. Instead, Wiggins advocated initiating the Peace Corps with “several thousand Americans participating in the first 12 to 18 months.”

Wiggins would base his thinking on having served in 1949 as one of the 15-man mission which administered the Marshall Plan in Norway, and then spending two years in the Philippines as senior U.S. economic adviser to the government. From there he went to Bolivia as Deputy Director and later Acting Director of the U.S. program. When he returned to Washington and the ICA (now AID) he was named Deputy Director of Far East operations.

Now is your opportunity to read why and how the Peace Corps happened. The agency that changed all our lives.

— John Coyne





  1. Introduction: The Present Trend of Thinking and Proposals
  2.   United States Motivations for the National Peace Corps

III. A Few Major Difficulties with Preliminary Proposals

  1.   Purpose of this Paper
  2.   A 5,000-Man, One-Country Program (Teaching English in the Philippines)
  3.   Why Teach English
  4.   Why Select the Philippines
  5.   Long-Range Objectives
  6.   The Project
  7.   The Role of Philippine Teachers
  8.   United States Financial Contribution
  9.   Administration
  10.   Potential Accomplishments
  11.   Conclusions
  12.   Conclusion — Relevance of Philippine Peace Corps Program to World-Wide         National Peace Corps

VII. Recommended Next Steps



President Kennedy’s desire to establish a National Peace Corps to assist peoples of underdeveloped countries obviously has struck an extremely responsive chord in America, The press, college students, private foundations, international volunteer and relief services, and the trade unions have all reacted favorably, indeed enthusiastically, to the proposal. Public meetings and conferences to discuss the many aspects of a Peace Corps have been held on a variety of proposals, have been well attended, and indicate widespread public support for the proposal.

In June 1960 Senator Humphrey introduced a bill for, the establishment of a “Peace Corps”. Representative Reuss of Wisconsin and the late Senator Neuberger also introduced a bill, which, was subsequently passed as an amendment to the Mutual Security Act, which calls for a study concerning the establishment of a Peace Corps, Professor Maurice Albertson of the Colorado State University Research Foundation, the ICA contractor for this study, is to complete the study by March 1.

At President Kennedy1s suggestion, Max Millikan of the Center for International Studies at MIT recently submitted a report to President Kennedy recommending the establishment of a Peace Corps.

The apparent unanimity of favorable response at home and abroad, when coupled with President Kennedy’s strong belief in the National Peace Corps concept and his formal proposal for such a Corps in his State of the Union address, indicates that a National Peace Corps will be established. The question then is what are to be its scope and timing, (it is indeed surprising that all public response has been positive. Those who may have doubts have only advocated caution in proceeding, not rejection of the proposal on its merits.)

While it seems to be true that some of those without experience in the management of overseas activities appear to minimize certain aspects of the difficulty of rapidly and effectively implementing this proposal, many with overseas experience tend to be overly cautious in their approach to it.

Most of the academic and other Institutional approaches to the opportunity of the National Peace Corps suggest tentative pilot projects, involving small numbers of people and consequently a limited political, economic, and psychological impact. This cautious approach is proposed by many because of the clear possibility of a fiasco. The organization and administration of a large number of Americans working on a variety of programs and projects in many countries with varying cultures and needs undeniably is an extremely complex and difficult undertaking. It is the prevailing view that if a great many Americans are scattered abroad and if significant numbers of them fail either in their own eyes or in the eyes of the recipient peoples, or if large numbers of the Americans have severe health, emotional or other problems, the resulting criticism will extend far beyond the project per se.

Thus, as far as can be ascertained, most of the individuals and groups who are in a position to advise President Kennedy counsel caution and a slow beginning. However, some elements of the trade unions are suggesting that President Kennedy think in terms of large numbers.

Generally speaking, those who are experienced are the most cautious. Many voluntary organizations with youths now abroad suggest that in the next year or so, if governmental financing were available, they could double the number of youths in their overseas programs. This would mean adding about 500 more youths to existing projects. Many International Cooperation Administration employees suggest expanding existing projects by adding youths as an extra personnel complement, thus making the  “expert” more effective and going projects more efficient. Suggestions from the Department of State on the Peace Corps are indeed rare (presumably political problems abroad that might arise from such a Corps overshadow any latent ideas). Professor Albertson, after his initial and preliminary survey and consultation with interested individuals and groups, informally suggested (about January 10, 1961) that perhaps something like 1,000 or 2,000 additional people might be sent abroad during 1961 under all facets of this program, including an expansion of the activity through the voluntary groups. Congressman Reuss recently suggested beginning at a 2,000-man level with possible potential growth of the Corps to 10,000.

Thus, one course of action is becoming clear and apparently has the support of most people expressing an opinion. Proceed cautiously, start with small pilot projects, don’t make mistakes, limit the program to 1,000 or 2,000 for a beginning (some say a few hundred), don’t let this experiment get out of hand — in other words, find out the appropriate dimensions of the program by cautious exploration.


Before attempting to assess present thinking about the Peace Corps, it appears essential to attempt to list the fundamental motivations for this activity. The following is neither all-inclusive nor mutually exclusive, but probably covers the main types of justification for the Peace Corps:

  1.  Program accomplishment abroad. Many Americans feel that there is a necessity to add another tool or resource to those presently available for accomplishing needed changes abroad. Not only do we need to bring another kind of asset to bear on our foreign problems, but there is also an urgency in these problems that demands we move more quickly. The National Peace Corps is a program that will allow the United States to move faster in many situations. This progress often requires the availability of large numbers of personnel,” which would be provided under this program. The National Peace Corps would provide another way to expand education, build a road, promote 4-H Clubs, or eradicate malaria. As such it holds forth the promise of potential accomplishment abroad of great importance to America.
  2. Training and recruiting ground for other activities. A second valuable contribution of the Peace Corps would be as a training and recruiting ground for future members of USIS, ICA, DLF, the Department of State, the foundations, business firms, etc.
  3. Psychological impact abroad of American youth “pitching in” to work abroad. Many National Peace Corps supporters claim that the greatest of benefits will occur as the people of other countries observe our youth helping the other people to dig ditches, teach schools, and build feeder roads. Aside from completing a project, the greatest impact is said to be that America will be better understood, better liked, etc.
  4. Impact on American society and American attitudes. Less discussed but perhaps of great significance, is the possibility that as Americans serve abroad over a period of time they become more oriented to the world scene and are better prepared to participate in world affairs. Many draw a parallel to the impact on American attitudes of having 14 million Americans under arms in World War II, a considerable portion of whom served abroad.
  5. American youth wants to serve abroad. The simple fact that youth wants to serve abroad is perhaps the most important ingredient in describing the present national motivation. ‘ The magnitude of response by young Americans to the proposition of the National Peace Corps has yet to be fully ascertained, but certainly, the preliminary indications are that the response, especially in the universities and colleges, is large and growing. This desire represents a composite of many emotions, feelings, and attitudes. Some of this motivation comes from a desire for creative “adventure” in foreign lands, some from a high sense of altruism and desire to serve in a noble cause, assisting other peoples to obtain a better life, some comes from the possible relation of the Peace Corps to draft deferment, and some no doubt from a sense of boredom and frustration with the present environment. In any case, from the United States Government’s point of view, this strong desire to “serve abroad” must be seriously considered.
  6. “Political” motivation. From a combination of the above considerations, it is clear that this proposed program has political support and is politically important. This “derived” motivation is listed here because it is in the “political” forum that the other motivations will produce the concrete results under consideration here. Religious, philanthropic, and foundation-type institutions have already initiated their “youth corps” programs with their own criteria in mind. What is now under consideration is the National Peace Corps that would be sponsored by the United States Government and developed by political bodies.


The following considerations of the preliminary proposals are offered with the realization that it is not yet fully appropriate to examine the proposals made to date since, in most cases, they represent but “approaches” to the subject, not full-blown, well-developed courses of action. Nonetheless, there is an almost universal tendency toward the conclusions indicated in Part I above, and such conclusions may well be embedded in decisions by the administration and in legislation considered by Congress in the next few weeks or months. Thus it is believed necessary to attempt to assess the developments to date even though only a few have been crystallized in concrete proposals of action.

The first major difficulty with most of the thinking that has been expressed to date (as summarized in Part I above) is that if the overall program is launched at the 1,000 to 2,000-youth level, it will be more likely to fail in the absolute sense than at a level, say, five or ten times greater. Generally speaking, such small numbers wont be significant enough in the recipient countries to get the governmental and institutional attention it needs. Exceptions can, of course, be found, but it is believed that they will be rare. Sending 100 students to a Latin American country won’t be important enough to get presidential support from that country. Active support from a Minister of Agriculture, Health, or Education would be surprising as a general rule. And if the country needed to give legislative or financial support, it might not be forthcoming. However, 1,000 or 5’000 Americans, working on something important in a single country, would merit considerably more political, administrative, and financial support. One hundred youths engaged in agricultural work of some sort in Brazil might pass by unnoticed, except for the problems involved, but 5’000 American youths helping to build Brasilia might warrant the full attention and support of the President of Brazil himself.

Likewise, if a program of 100 youths were to be launched in a Far Eastern country (with, say, 30 arriving the first year), it might be negotiated by an Ambassador who would be thinking: (l) ‘What can 100 youths do? (2) What will Washington think of next? (3) We have too many Americans here in this country, anyway; (4) What a terrible chance we are taking with all these kids; (5) I wonder if the Foreign Minister will pay any attention to it — and if he doesn’t, maybe we won’t have a Peace Corps program here after all; and (6) If he does, maybe we can keep the number down to 30 and cancel out the additional youths contemplated for the second year.

However, if the program is launched at a considerably higher level and selected countries can receive a number large enough to do an-important national job, it will merit attention abroad and won’t be just another annoyance to the Foreign Office — it will have the potential of developing into a major asset of mutual importance.

To some extent, there may be a parallel set of circumstances in the United States. A program of 1,000 or so youths may not merit sufficient administrative and legislative attention to overcome the very real difficulties in this complex program. A small program may become mired down in the application of routine rules, regulations, and priorities.

Let us suppose the Marshall Plan had been started a year or two earlier than 1948 when the “need” for the massive effort was not as clear and that the proposal would have been for a two-year, $2 billion program rather than a four-year, $17 billion program. Paul Hoffman probably wouldn’t have been its Director -— the influx of able talent to assist him would not have occurred in the magnitude it did — the Congress might not have created a separate agency to handle the job, but instead might have asked the Department of State to administer the resources with an advisory committee — Europe would never have formed the OEEC — the Russian attitude might have been quite different. Two years later (19AS), when the real, larger need became apparent, the program might have been in disrepute and the Congress might then have turned it down. Thus, history might have recorded the European Recovery Program as a failure because it wasn’t started on a scale sufficiently large to enable the United States and the European countries to “handle it right”.

In other words, it is here postulated that a “small”, “cautious” National Peace Corps may be worse than no Peace Corps at all. It may not receive the attention and talent it will require even for preventing trouble. A slow, cautious start may maximize the chance of failure. A small, cautious National Peace Corps may be a diversionary path of inconsequential accomplishment (see below) and major administrative and diplomatic trouble.

The second major difficulty is that the small-contingents concept is limited in scope to such a degree that it probably makes little difference whether or not we have a Peace Corps.

There are at least 60 countries eligible to receive the Corps. Let us suppose it grows from a starting-year size of 500 or 1,000 youths to 5,000 by the end of President Kennedy’s first term. Let us suppose 50 countries become involved, with an average of 100 youths each at the end of the first four years.

The contribution of a group of youths this size to the affairs of each country concerned will be negligible. Generally speaking, there is not sufficient expertise in the potential volunteers for the National Peace Corps to be advisors or organizers. They must be limited to performing those functions that have an “ordinary” rather than a “catalytic” effect. These youths generally will not have the professional or technical experience to make a contribution on a national scale if their numbers are small. One hundred “workers” or teachers in countries with many millions of people cannot contribute enough to make a real difference” in the history of the country.

The third major difficulty is that a program starting at the 1,000-2,000 youth level and growing to 5,000 will be an inadequate response to the following motivations.

  1. American youth wants to serve abroad;
  2. 2.psychological impact abroad;
  3. impact on American society;
  4. political aspects.

From these points of view, even at a 5,000-man level, only one youth in every 600 (?) who becomes 21 years of age would be able to serve in the Peace Corps — or from another more restricted point of view, if all the youths were drawn from our colleges and universities, on the basis of present enrollments only one youth in every 100 graduates would be able to serve. (Obviously, with the potential doubling of the college and university population in the next 10 years the figure would be about one in 200.) With regard to psychological impact abroad, a total of 5,000 youths and 50 countries (an average of 100 youths per country) is believed to be an insufficient number to produce a psychological impact of great enough importance to be a major justification for the National Peace Corps.

From a political viewpoint, given the response by American youth that this paper assumes, a National Peace Corps that allows an average of only two or three youths to enter each year from each college and university (not to mention the myriad number of other eligible youth) may well produce a negative political impact. An anticipated bold “new frontier” may fall into disrespect rather rapidly.

These three major difficulties are believed to be of such magnitude that they cast serious doubt on the wisdom of proceeding to implement the National Peace Corps on the limited scale now generally envisioned. It is possible that with extremely good fortune the program would be “satisfactory”; that is, it would avoid major trouble, but its relative cost would be high and its true value to the underdeveloped areas, insignificant.


Warren & JFK

The purpose of this paper is to advocate consideration of a “quantum jump” in the thinking and programming concerning the National Peace Corps. Its postulate is that America ought to consider initiating the program with several thousand Americans participating in the first 12 to 18 months — say, 5,000 to 10,000. The ultimate level of manpower to be utilized in this program will of course depend upon its initial success and difficulties. However, the potential of this program is great and it may prove to be the case that it should be at the 30,000, the 50,000, or possibly even at the 100,000 level. Even this latter higher level would mean that only one out of every 30 (?) youths would serve in the Peace Corps.

Since it is somewhat difficult to illustrate abstractly the general thesis of the nature and value of a National Peace Corps involving a great many thousands of Americans, this paper proposes the following illustrative 5,000-youth, a one-country program for examination. Following the examination of this program, some generalities will he suggested about the possibility of, and the advantages and disadvantages of, a National Peace Corps of large dimension.


(Teaching English in the Philippines)

As one of the major projects of a large worldwide Peace Corps, it is proposed to send American College graduates to the Philippines for the purpose of teaching English in the public schools and to accompany this program with a special project for intensified training of Philippine nationals as English teachers. The level of National Peace Corps volunteers would never exceed 5,000 in the Philippines at any one time. The first 1,000 National Peace Corps English teachers would arrive in the Philippines by September and October of 1961, the level would be increased to 3,000 by September-October of 1962 and by September-0ctober of 1963. These Peace Corps teachers would then be phased out of the Philippines by the fall of 1966 and replaced by the thousands of Philippine teachers who will have been trained by then in the special program In accordance with the length of the tour of duty proposed below, this level of manpower would utilize about 17,000 American youths during the course of the five years.

  1. Why English teaching. The teaching of English has been selected for this major project because a certain reasonably uniform skill in English will already be possessed by this group of Americans and because in this activity the Americans’ competence will be recognized from the day they arrive, even though they may have had but rudimentary training in the professional skill of language transmission. Given a certain reasonably uniform skill in English, large numbers of people can quickly and easily be trained adequately to teach it. In few other specialized fields can the training of Americans be so easily routinized and adapted to a mass program.

Few other programs can be implemented as quickly in terms of accompanying materials, logistical support, etc. Moreover, in no other specialized field will American competence be recognized so universally, despite the relative youth and inexperience of the teachers.

  1. Why select the Philippines, In 1902 there were more than 1,000 American teachers serving in the Philippines. At that time there were approximately 200,00 students enrolled in all of the public schools. At the time of the Second World War, when the enrollment in the public schools had passed the two million mark, there were fewer than 100 American teachers in the Philippines. In 1958, with a school population of over 4,000,000 and teachers, there were only two of these old-time Americans in the public school service of the Philippines after a continuous period of more than 50 years.

English is not only the medium of instruction in public schools but is also the official language of government, trade, and commerce. The English language is the principal medium in which the Philippine culture — its ideologies, values, doctrines, literature, and knowledge — is expressed. It plays a basic role in the Philippine effort to develop technical and cultural interchange. The Philippine nation is considered the largest English- speaking nation in Asia and the Pacific and ranks third among the English- speaking nations of the world.

The International Cooperation Administration has worked very closely with the Philippine Government for many years and has prepared various studies concerning the state of education in the Philippines, Some of the findings are as follows:

a. General education today in the Philippines is cause for great concern. Its quality and quantity have continued to deteriorate to an alarming extent.

b. The Philippines has a young and rapidly increasing population. More than half of all Filipinos are less than 17 years of age.

c. Functional literacy of the total population is disturbingly low, probably in the neighborhood of 30 percent.

d. The secondary schools of the Philippines are the most inadequately maintained segment of the public school system. Three-fourths of Filipino youths never attend a secondary school and only 10 out of 100 children who enter the first grade finish high school. Ten percent of the children never start school.

e. Classes are overcrowded with an average of approximately 50 students. It Is not unusual for a class to have 60 or more students.

f. Instructional materials are totally inadequate. Many classes have no instructional materials. The need for texts is critical.

g. English language instruction has deteriorated at an alarming rate. This is partially due to the disappearance of American teachers and school administrators, increased population, lack of materials, and a wave of nationalism.

h.Relatively successful adult education programs in literacy are not enough to counteract the number of illiterate children being added each year.

i. There is some danger that unless intensive effort is made to improve the teaching of English in the schools, ’’English will become just another vernacular.

j. The incongruity — many successful projects in education, yet continued deterioration of the ability to use the national language — may be explained in part by the fact that assistance thus far has attempted to fill a reservoir with an eyedropper. Gargantuan efforts are required.

There are now more than 23,000 schools, 100,000 teachers, and over 4,000,000 pupils in the Philippines. Increasing enrollments, inadequately prepared teachers, insufficient teachers and supervisors, lack of textbooks and instructional materials, large classes, limited time allotment of instruction, language difficulties, and an alarming drop-out rate — all have contributed to the declining quality of education and English-language facility in the Philippines.

The Philippines desire and could absorb a large number of young American teachers because:

a. The host government and people would be receptive to large numbers of young Americans. History has provided an ideal cultural and social climate to receive American youth.

b. Since many Filipinos at an early age acquire a rudimentary knowledge of English, the Americans would not be handicapped because of their lack of knowledge of the host country’s language.

c. As indicated above, mass skill in English as a language is important to the Philippines.

d. The Philippines has an established institutional framework (governmental and private) that would allow the absorption of large numbers of Americans.

3. Long-range objective of the project. The prime, long-range objective of this operation is to develop a better program of English-language instruction which will be sustained and perpetuated by the Filipinos themselves long after the five-year period of teaching by the Peace Corps has ended* The Peace Corps program, however effective it may be during the proposed five- year period, cannot be considered a success unless there is available a sufficient number of indigenous personnel to continue the task of English language instruction upon the termination of the program. Therefore, concurrently with the program of English language instruction, there must be initiated a program of training Filipino nationals who will subsequently serve as teachers and as trainers of teachers (Filipino-teacher-trainees). Such training can be initiated on relatively short notice but does not need to be initiated simultaneously with the arrival of Peace Corps teachers.

4. The Project. The United States Government has had long experience in the field of education in developing countries. It has provided assistance to 42 developing nations, particularly in the field of teacher training. In the Philippines, the ICA has worked very closely with the Ministry of Education and other governmental agencies since 1952. It has conducted research and prepared studies on the state of English language instruction and teacher training in the Philippines. [Insert here the current foundation efforts in English language teaching in the Philippines.]

There are 277 general high schools in the Philippines, about 90 vocational high schools, and some 28,000 elementary schools. Assuming a good orientation and training program, the Philippine educational system could easily utilize up to 5,000 National Peace Corps teachers. At present, it is recommended that the program be conducted in selected areas of the Philippines. Thus a group of Peace Corps teachers would be located in the municipality where a general high school is located, and an effort would be made to assign them first to the general high school and next to the higher grades of the elementary schools in the surrounding area. Selection of the schools would rest to a large degree upon the Philippine Department of Education and Bureau of Public Schools. Past experience has shown that administrators in the Philippine Department of Education work well with American education technicians.

To a large degree, the success of the program will depend upon the supervisors of the National Peace Corps teachers. It is proposed, that one American supervisor be provided for every 20 National Peace Corps teachers. The primary responsibility of the supervisor will be to act as the main contact point and counselor for the National Peace Corps teacher. It is planned to station the supervisors in the municipalities.

Under the Philippine educational system, classes average 50-60 students. It is assumed that each Peace Corps teacher would instruct six classes daily and participate in adult education in the English language. Consideration would have to be given to the extent to which the proposal for six classes a day with 50 students per class could be modified. There is an obvious advantage in smaller classes and this might be possible. Of course, even with the larger classes and a peak number of National Peace Corps teachers, only a little more than one-third of the Philippine students could be taught. (5,000 teachers X 6 classes X 50 students = 1,500,000 students).

It will be necessary to train the National Peace Corps teachers and supervisors in the technique of English-language instruction. A two to four months course would be essential, including orientation. Several possibilities are (a) the training could be divided among several universities with sizable numbers of students at each campus; (b) one school could conduct the training of all of the student-teachers and supervisors, and (recourse could be made to the Army Education Training Services for training all of the Peace Corps teachers and supervisors (The disadvantages of having the Array train the Peace Corps are recognized). It would be necessary to contact immediately a publisher of English-language teaching materials. Generally, the materials required would include pamphlets to be used by Philippine students, and books and pamphlets for the National Peace Corps teachers and supervisors. It is not now believed that tape recorders or other electronic equipment need be procured. However, the availability of simple non-electronic equipment ought to be explored.

In order to meet the proposed schedule of sending 1,000 Peace Corps teachers to the Philippines in September-October 1961, it will be necessary to call for applications from college students beginning in February and to contact the Association of American School Principals before March for a list of licensed teachers available for overseas service. This latter personnel would be the supervisors of the National Peace Corps teachers. An announcement describing the goals of the program and the qualifications for Peace Corps teachers and their supervisors in the Philippines will be sent to the University Association of School Principals and to newspapers. At least an AB degree in any field would be the general requirement for National Peace Corps teacher applicants with no requirement for courses in the education field. The applications could be processed at selected universities. The preliminary selection and elimination process would be based on reference checks, psychological tests of the type administered by USIA, and physical examination. Preliminary selections will be referred to a Peace Corps processing unit at the university, where security and final clearances would be completed and candidates appointed. The selection process should be geared to secure the most mature, flexible, and emotionally stable students.

Because of unsatisfactory health conditions in some parts of the Philippines and other problems to which student-teachers would be unaccustomed, the importance of selecting persons who are in good health, who have a missionary zeal, and who will pass rigid orientation, psychological and training tests are stressed.

Though details concerning selection, recruitment, training, transportation, housing, and the like must, be further developed, the cost of this major project from February 1961 through June 1962 is estimated below. In this estimate, no allowance is made for the training of Philippine teachers to replace the National Peace Corps teachers. It is assumed that this program will begin on July 1, 1962. If it is begun earlier, the total costs would of course increase accordingly. On this basis tentative estimates follow:

Salaries of Peace Corps Teachers, Supervisors                            $1,550.000

1,000 teachers at $1,200 per year                 $1,200,000

50 supervisors, $6-8,000 per year                       350, 000


  1. Transportation                                                                                  690,000


One-way charter plane

1,000 teachers at $600 per person                    600,000


50 supervisors and families—150

People at $600 per person                               90,000


Teaching Materials                                            405.000


Assuming 2 pamphlets per student at

50 cents a pamphlet, 300 students

(an absolute maximum, probably it

ought to be less) for each of 1,000

teachers, or 300,000 students                           300,000


Other teaching materials, books, etc.

$100 for each teacher                                         100,000


d. Training                                                                                                           1,155,000

Cost of $1,000 per teacher, supervisor and for two to four months at a university                  (including 10$ washouts)

e. Housing                                                                                                             323,750

Local housing – 1,000 Peace Corps teachers at $ 40 a month, 50 supervisors at                      $125 a month.

f. Administration                                                                                              1,823,500

(1) Domestic

Security ($350 each)                                                                                  423,500

Washington Staff (Pers., AdSer,

Tech, unit)                                                                                                    300,000

U.S. Employees at Universities                                                                200,000

Selecting teachers, University

Contracts (including medical and

USIA-type psychological exam.)                                                              500,000

(2) Support in Field

(including 6 Americans, 20 locals;

Logistic support)                                                                                         400,000

  1. Contingencies                                                                                              1,000,000

TOTAL                                                                                                                   $6,947,250


In the fiscal year 1964 and fiscal year 1965, when the peak load of 5,000 Peace Corps teachers would be reached, the costs for that year would be around $30 million. Depending on the rate of phase-out, the total cost for the project might be estimated as follows:

‘The costs of training Philippine teachers are additional and roughly estimated at $3 million.

The above budget is based upon a tour of 14 to l6 months. This short tour is recommended in light of the variety of motivations behind the program — in particular, the desire to serve abroad as well as the impact on American society. Orientation and training would take two to four months and actual teaching time would be eight months during the school year and up to four months in adult education during the school vacation period. Thus, on the above schedule there would be a new group of teachers each year which would mean that the impact in terms of “absorbing” the number of Americans would be a maximum impact; in 1961-62; 3,000 in 1962-63; 5,000 in 1963-64; 5,000 in 1964-65; and 3,000 in 1965-66, or a total of 17,000

This 14 to l6-month tour raises the total cost of the project for transportation and training, but it is believed worthwhile considering the total rationale for the Peace Corps. The “tour” of the supervisors would be a normal two years abroad, plus training and orientation of from two to four months. A second tour in the same country and activity would, of course, he encouraged.

  1. Role of the Philippine Teachers — One of the most important parts of the undertaking to Improve the English-language capacity of the Philippines is the institution of an English Teacher Training Program for Philippine teachers. The proposal for this phase of the endeavor has not yet “been prepared. It is believed that it ought to involve the provision of about 100 American Teacher Trainers for a period of two years. The total cost of such teacher trainers, including salary’ and support costs, would probably approximate $15,000 a year per trainer.

Thus the cost of providing Americans with this aspect of the program might be about $3 million. The extent to. which a balanced program. would include sending Filipinos to the United States has not been determined. But there are obvious advantages in bringing the potential Philippine “teacher-trainee–to-the ‘United States. Likewise, estimates— of materials required for this endeavor have not been approximated.

It is believed that this phase of the teacher-trainer program should be supported financially by the Philippine Government, possibly using local currency generated from agricultural surplus programs. However, it is clear that in this program, the United States will need: to contribute a large share, if not all, of the dollar costs.

One desirable alternative would be to establish a separate “facility (but an integral part of the overall program) in the host country to administer the Filipino-teacher-trainee program. Those selected as teachers would be trained for a minimum of two years at training centers established at strategic points in the Philippines. Under this alternative, up to five centers, for example, would be required, and physical space in the normal schools and colleges is believed to be available and can be utilized for this purpose. Adequate housing for teacher-trainees is believed to be available also in the vicinity of some of the proposed training centers.

  1. United States Financial Contributions—The assumption of this proposed program is that the United States would have to pay all of the costs of the National Peace Corps English Language Program in the Philippines. There is little or no prospect that provincial revenues or central government revenues could be expanded to cover any part of the financial requirements of this project. (Secondary education is financed by the Provinces.) Also, it must be made absolutely clear that no Philippine teacher will be unemployed as a consequence of this program. The large number of unemployed teachers in the Philippines makes it politically mandatory that Philippine revenues not be expended to employ American teachers. This is true even though the unemployed teachers are not English teachers.
  2. Administration —The administration of this project depends upon 1 the resolution of the organizational structure for all aid activities, as well as for the total National Peace Corps. In any event, the size and. composition of the Washington unit will need to be sufficient to ensure the performance of the following tasks:

a. Personnel requirements:

(1) Establishment and maintenance of uniform stands of

Selection by groups at universities.

(2) Recruitment and supervision of other necessary personnel.

(3) Supervision of personnel and security staff at universities.

(4) Orientation and training.

a. Orientation and arranging for orientation and programs, maintaining continuous liaison with the organization(s) responsible for the program.

b. Procurement of supplies, equipment, facilities, etc.

c. Transportation of personnel and equipment.

d. General administrative backstopping of units in the Philippines.

The field unit would be a separate office. Under present overseas arrangements, it would be a separate office within the ICA US CM reporting to the USOM Director. The type and size of the unit would be dependent upon the amount of technical backstopping required. Its principal function would be to assist the supervisors as necessary. Hie director of this unit Would have appropriate status. The separate unit would, of course, draw on USOM services and experience, which will be staffed to carry out the following tasks: Personnel, fiscal, general services, communications, property management, purchasing, motor transportation, housing, etc. Transportation would be provided by the United States Government on the basis of a regular tour of duty for all participating personnel with repayment requirements for those not completing the tour. Compulsory health and life insurance would be required for all National Peace Corps teachers, supervisors, and teacher- trainers.

  1. Potential Accomplishments — The provision of 17,000 Peace Corps teachers at a cost of about $112 million (plus the cost of training the Filipino teachers) would halt the retrogression of English in the third-largest English-speaking country in the world and would, in fact, make possible substantial progress in the basic improvement of the national language facility. Over the five-year period there would be an average of 3,000 Peace Corps teachers who would be teaching, for example, six classes of 5° students, or 300 students per teacher, or an average of 1,020,000 students an hour a day, five days a week, for five years.

(Or alternatively, a larger number of students could be taught for a fewer number of years — or days per week. And also, of course, it may be possible and wise to reduce the size of present classes and – improve the quality of instruction even though the number^ instructed, would be diminished.)

In any event, this massive infusion of English teachers, coupled with a program to instruct Philippine English teachers, would substantially improve the language facility of the Philippines. More important, however, would be. the fact that 17,000 Americans would learn, first-hand, more about the rest of the world, and millions of Philippine citizens would come to regard Americans with a new perspective.

  1. Conclusions Concerning the Proposed Philippine English Language Teaching Program

a. The Philippines is in great need of Immediate assistance in English language instruction and in training Filipinos as English language teachers.

b. An effective program for English language teaching and the training of selected Filipinos as English -teachers can be established and implemented.

c. The prime, long-range objective of this major project— to develop an effective program of English language instruction that will be sustained and perpetuated by the Filipinos themselves can be served effectively by sending a sizable number of American National Peace Corps teachers to the Philippines. The agreement with the Philippine Government concerning the total number of Peace Corps teachers to be furnished over a five-year period should be tentatively set at 5,000 but should be open-ended and based on the experience gained during the operation.

d . In light of administrative and operational factors, it would appear wise net to exceed 1,000 national Peace Corps teachers during the first year of operation.

e. To send 1,000 fully-prepared National Peace Corps teachers to the Philippines by September-October 1961, prior to the beginning of the second semester, requires the initiation of action no later than February 1961.

f. Pending overall organizational arrangements for foreign activities and for the National Peace Corps, a small, separate semi-autonomous unit within ICA could be established to administer the project and serve as a coordinating unit with other governmental and non-governmental agencies. Personnel assigned to this •unit must serve full time. Mutual Security funds should be used pending the final determination of funding authority.

g. Considering all of the factors that underlie support of the Peace Corps, this program appears valuable, because of (1) opportunity it provides for 17,000 Americans to serve abroad: (2) the basic improvement in the language-facility of a nation of 24 million people; (3) the training and recruitment potential involved for other activities; (4) the real impact on Philippine attitudes toward the United States; and (5) the impact on the U.S. of 17,000 Americans having taught English in the Philippines; and (6) the political, merit of successfully meeting points (1) through (5). It is believed will worth the cost of about $112 million over a five-year period.


It is believed that the National Peace Corps English Teaching Program in the Philippines herein proposed supports the postulate of this paper that America ought to consider a Peace Corps of large Magnitude. If, for example, a million American youths were to serve abroad in the next decade, the contribution to the free world — and to America — might be enormously important. This suggestion is, of course, highly assertive and this paper cannot attempt to demonstrate its validity.

However, following the sane hind of argument for the teaching of the English language in the Philippines, it certainly would be fruitful to explore a 5,000 to 10,000-man-per-year project in English language instruction in Nigeria. In India, if the program were acceptable and worthwhile from the Indian point of view, it is not impossible to imagine a 50,000 Peace Corps teacher force in India. And –at this level — the Peace Corps might become a tremendous asset in Indian planning. Pakistan likewise offers vast potential. In Mexico, there is certainly the possibility of using a few thousand Peace Corps English teachers. Thus, in one field — English language teaching — it is here postulated that very large numbers of Peace Corps teachers could be most usefully employed.

Such a national effort on the part of the United States can not be undertaken easily or without a great deal of thought and preparation. This paper does not advocate that there is a clear conclusion that we ought to have a large National Peace Corps. What it does advocate is that a National Peace Corps starting on a small, scale and growing, say, to the 5,000 level on a worldwide basis, is a marginal underbaking and may, on balance, cause more trouble than it is worth. Because this paper postulates that there is a large and fundamental motivation behind the Peace Corps idea of national and international importance, it advocates making a real assessment of the relative value and cost of starting “large” and accelerating to the extent that the program’s contribution is commensurate with its cost.



Based upon the do ore discussion of the National Peace Corps, other reports and analyses, speeches, and articles that have appeared to date, it is believed that certain preliminary decisions with respect to the Peace Corps and an interim administrative organization need to be taken. This section proposes an approach to such interim action.

The Executive Branch should decide that the Peace Corps will be launched in calendar year 196l and at a level sufficiently large to:

(1) Assure maximum chance of success;

(2) demonstrate that major activities can be undertaken in particular countries; and

(3) test the wisdom of a variety of types of approaches and activities. Thus, it is believed that in February President Kennedy should decide that, even in advance of legislation and formal administrative structure, the Peace Corps will be launched with a major Presidential statement or speech, that a call for volunteers will be thus issued, that preparatory work for a series of specific pilot projects will begin, that screening of applicants will be underway, that to the extent necessary appropriate contracts will be negotiated and that selected foreign governments will be contacted.

To accomplish this, a variety of alternative administrative structures are feasible. However, none appears to be as efficient, desirable, or as quick as utilizing the existing overseas agency which handles the bulk of U. S. overseas activities and personnel –the International Cooperation Administration. It is recommended that a new Deputy Director be appointed immediately in ICA to serve as the Peace Corps Administrator. -This Deputy Director, his staff, and activities would be funded by a Presidential Determination, utilizing Mutual Security funds through the exemption route (Section/of the Mutual Security Act). He would be given immediate authorization for an administrative and program staff in Washington, D. C. of up to 150 people to initiate the activity. This group would be recruited on a priority basis over the months ahead. This group would be a somewhat separate organizational unit within the ICA and it would draw on the services and skills of the rest of the agency but would have full organizational responsibility for the administration of the program (as indicated, this would of course be an interim arrangement pending an over-all reorganization of foreign economic activities).

It is assumed that such a Deputy Director would be a man of national stature in whom President Kennedy, Secretary Busk, Under Secretary Ball, and Mr. Labouisse would have full confidence.

The Administrator of the National Peace Corps would be charged with the development of an immediate program that would look toward the utilization of, say, 5,000 to 10,000 youths in the next 12 to 18 months. Certain major projects should be undertaken, such as the Philippines proposal contained in this paper, which would utilize 1,000 youths the first year. Probably a parallel English teaching program for Nigeria ought to be instituted immediately, involving another thousand teachers. The National Peace Corps could also be effectively used in health programs such as malaria eradication and smallpox vaccination, particularly in Africa. The existing voluntary agency programs for youths abroad should be expanded as rapidly as possible to absorb up to an additional thousand youths in the next 18 months. Maximum utilization should be made of National Peace Corps personnel in the regular “Point IV” activities of IGA abroad in some 60 countries, which could probably make use of 1,000 youths in the next 18 months. Likewise, Peace Corps personnel could be attached to the 40 university contracts abroad, adding, for example, another 300 to 400 to the total.

These and the host of other activities that have been suggested should be carefully screened and selected projects initiated. The actual final number to be enrolled in the Peace Corps in the first 12 to 18 months should of course depend upon the volume of good programs that can be developed and successfully administered.

A Note from Bill Josephson: “This version of A Towering Task is not the original.  The original is longer and was classified Official Use Only.  I do not know if it has ever been declassified.  An original is in my papers at the Kennedy Library. 

The version was created by Warren in response to public demand for a copy and bears the date 2/17/61, two months after the original was circulated by us.”




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  • Thank you PCWorldwide for publishing this “Founding Document”. Even sixty years later it’s vision & audacity is breathtaking, Josephson and Wiggins succeeded in grabbing the PC babe out of its infantile crib and forcing it to grow up very rapidly,and though it’s vision of hundred thousand Volunteers serving the people in countries around the world was never reached, their vision rescued PC from a slow crawl start. And only their “towering task” challenge could stimulate Shriver’s adrenaline as it did. While in working with Sargent Shriver from 1981 to 1990 I never heard him criticize the subsequent Peace Corps of less than ten thousand, But I know it privately broke his heart that the Peace Corps remained so small and ceased to think boldly and grandly. That said, we owe Bill Josephson and Warren Wiggins an enormous vote of thanks for had they not articulated this Towering Task and set Shriver’s afterburners aflame, I and tens of thousands of others would never had the opportunity to serve. Thank you Bill &Warren & Sarge

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