To the Editors of the CRIMSON:
As a member of the faculty staff (along with Prof. Paul Bohannan, Northwestern University, Prof. Morroe Berger, Princeton University, Drs. Eissien-Udom and Paul Sigmund of Harvard) that participated in the Nigerian Teacher Training (Peace Corps) Program this summer at Harvard. I feel impelled to comment upon the unfortunate event involving the Harvard-trained Peace Corps Volunteers now at the University College, Ibadan, West Nigeria.
First of all, I should say that I consider the anti-Peace Corps demonstrations by Nigerian students unfortunate, not because it provides unfavorable propaganda for the United States in context of the East-West power and ideological struggle, for this aspect of the problem doesn't particularly disturb me. Rather, it is an unfortunate event insofar as it represents one of the obstacles to the ability of the American people to assist in the human struggle for better standards of existence in underdeveloped countries.
Primary among these obstacles, perhaps, is the simple inability of so many of us to perceive and understand precisely what life and human existence are all about in an underdeveloped country. That this is so is, of course, readily understandable, given the rather high standards available to our population.
Thus, the authoress of the post-card that sparked the demonstrations is a girl of upper middle-class background who, as her father informed the Boston press, had not a single clue--in terms of personal experiences--as to what underdeveloped conditions of life are like. No doubt, it was the function of myself and other members of the faculty staff that trained her and her colleagues, to provide some understanding of these conditions; and as far as I am concerned, we did so as best we could.
Yet, none of us, I am true, was naive enough to suppose for a minute that an eight-week training course on African problems was satisfactory for providing students who have never seen nor experienced poverty an adequate understanding of what it is and how to respond when confronted with it. The more I think about the matter, perhaps the best training course for these Peace Corps Volunteers would have been to take them on a extensive study tour of some of the Negro slums in Boston, and in that way give them their first experience with underdevelopment.
Be that as it may, the Ibadan incident has not moved me in my support of Harvard's participation in training Peace Corps Volunteers and in the Peace Corps proposition itself. For although it may not be the ideal mechanism for directing part of our trained human resources to the task of development in underdeveloped countries, it is a fairly reasonable arrangement and should be supported until something better comes along. Martin Kilson, Tutor in Government; Research Associate, Center for International Affairs.