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Post Peace Corps Training
Created by John Eipper on 07/09/12 9:38 AM

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Peace Corps Training (Richard Hancock, USA, 07/09/12 9:38 am)

In answer to JE's question of 7 July about the Peace Corps training period, I would say that it was normally 13 weeks, 10 hours/day, 6 days/week. For the training of Peace Corps at the University of Oklahoma (1963-87), that was the normal training period except for fish-farming which required more, because it was impossible to recruit trainees who were skilled in that field.

After 1972, most Peace Corps training was moved overseas and I know of no other US university that continued training after that date. The P.C. continued to use Camp Crozier (originally devoted totally to Outward Bound training) for the full gamut of training, but they soon gave up on that because the trainees learned to speak the Spanish spoken by the uneducated "Puertorriqueño" which, in my experience, is the world's worst Spanish. (When Shriver stepped down from the directorship of the Peace Corps, the Corps abandoned Outward Bound because the new director believed that the four weeks dedicated to Outward Bound could be better used for other subjects.)

Oklahoma U could have continued to train Peace Corps at its Hacienda El Cóbano in Colima, Mexico, but the US Embassy decided to ban Peace Corps training in Mexico. The story is that the Governor of Oaxaca met some young American P.C. trainees in his state without his having any prior knowledge that any such training existed in his state. He apparently protested this to the Embassy and, unfortunately, the ambassador decided to ban all such training.

Personally I can't see why P.C. training differed from dozens of other programs abroad sponsored by US universities in Mexico which were welcomed all over Mexico as a different form of tourism. We protested this decision, but the State Dept. bureaucrats are famous for ignoring claims by US citizens. Their is no other resort after having received an official negative from an Embassy. I have talked to businessmen in Latin America who said that it was better to seek aid from the Canadian Embassy rather than the US Embassy.

In the fall of 1964 as the director of International Training at OU, I traveled to Washington, DC to get ideas about P.C. training. On meeting with a member of the training staff, I discovered that there was a program for Bolivia to train volunteers for service in Bolivia's share of the Amazon basin. When he stated that the training should be more appropriately conducted in Florida with its sub-tropical climate, I told him that we could conduct part of the training program in the humid tropical climate of Veracruz. He asked, "Can you really do this?" I told him that we could and spoke knowingly about Papaloapan River project, which was patterned somewhat after the TVA in the US. Although I had never been to that part of Mexico, I was familiar with a Stanford colleague's dissertation on that project, so I was able to speak intelligently about that region of Mexico. I assured him that we could do this.

After calling my boss, Vice-President Thurman White, he agreed and I was off to the Papaloapan basin at my earliest opportunity. We eventually partially trained seven groups in Mexico. Our program consisted of 9 weeks at OU and 4 weeks in Mexico. In this manner I began my experience of training perhaps 1500 trainees at OU, 1964-87.

In the fall of 2002, I wrote a complete account of Peace Corps training at OU in The Chronicles of Oklahoma, Volume LXXX, number three, Fall, 2002, pp. 348-369. Since the entire "Chronicles of Oklahoma" is now completely on line, interested WAISers can read this article by Googling The Chronicles as above with the article, "The Best Our Country Has to Offer," Peace Corps Training at The University of Oklahoma, by Richard H. Hancock.

JE comments: My thanks to Richard Hancock for this excellent summary. I'll look for the Chronicles of Oklahoma article.

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