Brown, on the other hand, is an unmitigated wanker:
Mr. Kristof, who wants young Americans to teach English the world over, seems unaware that all too many of us here in the homeland (which is how we now identify our cry-the-beloved country in these sad post-9/11 times) are incapable of writing a coherent English sentence free of grammatical and spelling errors. And how many of us called-to-duty language missionaries currently living in said homeland, if volunteering to coach "debate teams" overseas, could actually be capable of crafting a logical argument, given our 24/7 we-can't-stop-loving-it culture of instant mindless gratification a la Tee-Vee & Twitter & uptalk?You know what's better than sweeping negative generalizations about young people? Totally unsubstantiated, evidence free, crotchety, you-kids-get-off-my-lawn-style sweeping negative generalizations about young people. Bonus points for prescriptive grammar wankery, a pet peeve of mine.
It gets better:
As for the Peace Corps, its main drawbacks are twofold.
(A) Giving jobs to too many well-meaning but desperately-seeking-to-be-employed, résumé-driven, undereducated provincial American BA's with, all too often, little or no knowledge of foreign languages/cultures or substantial skills, personal or intellectual, even in teaching (or speaking) their own native language.
There are, of course, notable exceptions, including "senior citizens" in the program; but much of the Peace Corps is, I would suggest, an updated, "democratic" version of a vast system of outdoor relief for the upper classes.
In all fairness, these well-meaning, often naive, Peace Corps volunteers (I had the privilege of meeting many of them in my Foreign Service career), may be eager to learn about the outside world. But if they are parachuted to teach/"set an example" in other countries, they should know far more about them (and their own country and language) than Peace Corps "training" provides (and by the time they know something about where they are, they are shipped out).
(B) As suggested by the above remarks, most sadly and importantly, the Peace Corps is not a bilateral program. In essence, "we" (the U.S.) are telling "them" (the "foreigners") what to do (in a gentle way) -- a twentieth-century Cold War one-way-communications propaganda model, granted on a perhaps laudable human level.
There's a lot to digest there, and I even think that Brown might be on to something occasionally (particularly with the quality of the training, here in South Africa anyways). But aside from his sneering dismissal of volunteers, he totally misunderstands the goals of Peace Corps, which are primarily cultural. The three main goals are
- Helping the people of interested countries in meeting their need for trained men and women.
- Helping promote a better understanding of Americans on the part of the peoples served.
- Helping promote a better understanding of other peoples on the part of Americans.
In particular, the challenges of a volunteer tend to be poorly understood by journalists and foreign service officers, who are typically accustomed to an immediate and extensive support system. They’re surrounded by translators, fixers, and well-staffed bureaus; they rarely know what it’s like to be alone in a strange country with a hard job to do. And nothing is more difficult than staying in a small community for an extended period of time.Now, I've got another post gestating about the worth of the Peace Corps, but suffice to say I think it's a lot better than what Brown thinks.