#180 A solid academic background
Submitted by Greg Vaughan who blogs at Agrarian Ideas
Some may doubt that your double degree in Queer Studies and 18th-century French literature qualifies you to teach farming techniques to people who don’t know what “queer” means and who’ve never heard of Louis XIV. But they don’t know that most of development work isn’t actually about doing concrete things, but rather writing documents and holding meetings about doing concrete things. For this, your small liberal arts college has prepared you smashingly. Plus you’ve read the 30-page Peace Corps manual on agroforestry systems (complete with an entire half page about their possible, theoretical economic viability), so you’re fully prepared to lead farmers to change their millenarian practices and embark in a new direction.
Of course you’d never want a non-English-speaking goatherd from Chad teaching your course on Organic Chemistry. He wouldn’t know anything about 99% of the courses taught at your school, and it would be a real travesty to have him shaping the future of university students. You, on the other hand, are a versatile thinker, who can get your head around the ideas of Kant and Freud. Distributing anti-malarial bed nets is no sweat compared to all the important, complex themes you’ve mastered in your education.
What’s that? You’ve also got an MBA? That’s even better! Farming and general economic subsistence in the Third World is exactly like those case studies you’ve read about GM and United Colors of Benetton. You’re just the one to introduce the US mores of competition, innovation, and marketing to the rest of the world so they can follow our same sustainable, prosperous path.
But what happens when a young upstart comes along and you’re worried about losing your job? Obviously the threat won’t come from an agronomist or engineer, since they mainly come from the public universities that your international NGO doesn’t hire from. But what about another student of Dickens and the Industrial Revolution, or Political Game Theory, from a top private college similar to yours? It’s no problem. You and your workmates can just draft TORs for the new job opening that are so specific as to leave you as the world’s only viable candidate. That way you’re assured of a continued position, and you’ve saved your organization from making the mistake of hiring an unqualified greenhorn. They got lucky once with you, but they shouldn’t take the same risk again!