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#180 A solid academic background

November 1, 2012

Photo: (Editor’s note: click on the photo for a very fitting article….)

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!

6 Comments leave one →
  1. November 1, 2012 9:35 am

    OMG this is so exact, funny and relevant!!!! ahhhhhhhhh! thanks :-)

    just to note that those bloody ToRs are so specific they leave out also many other people apart from the ones you mention sarcastically (which is so true also). It is a widespread problem in the industry at large, together wiht the incompetence/ ignorance of HR recruiters in the industry, and industry’s stereotypes about aid workers and aid work,

    Thanks for making me smile notwithstanding the gravity of the issues.


  2. November 1, 2012 4:48 pm

    There was a Peace Corps guy in my area called Brad. He was a hugely fat kijana. And in Africa there is no such thing as a fat kijana. Also he used moisturiser on his hands, so when anyone met him and shoook hands with him… His degree was in Marketing. He did grow up on a farm. However, it was a pumpkin farm. So he wasn’t much use amongst the African smallholders on the equator, was he? Then, on one field visit he fell down the latrine.

    He wasn’t the only Peace Corps that I thought was completely bloody useless. There were two young co-eds who kept mixing up their anti-malarials and poisoning themselves… The stories go on.

    What the hell do the administrators at Peace Corps think they are doing? JFK would be turning in his grave.

  3. Ashlee Tuttleman permalink
    November 1, 2012 6:26 pm

    i <3 this blog. I get the emails as well, but this one is bloody fantastic

  4. November 2, 2012 10:15 am

    Love this line..”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..” A strong element of truth….l recently saw a position in Kenya with the following requirements “Fluency in English and French required, Spanish Desirable” … I can understand English, but French and Spanish?


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