Even a "Jesuit" is an anomaly in today's lay society. Arthur Howe's ability to use reason to promote an awareness of the "sacred" was of limited use in the "profane" power struggles that would "wear him out". During the late '60's, both at home and abroad, the status quo would be progressively challenged by a new generation of lay idealists: Civil Rights and Counter-Cultural movements in the United States, student/worker upheavals in France... and as backdrop, the increasing involvement of the United States in the war in Viet Nam.
Some will say it's a bygone era, others that AFS is no longer AFS. "Why not?" will ask all those who get a lump in their throat remembering the parties, the "Colgate" smiles. [...] In fact, this program no longer suited AFS's needs. After a year where AFS'ers had bent over backwards to be "nice little kids", it just didn't work anymore. The smiling machine had broken, the visit to the Mesa Mormon canning factory had lost its charm and the AFS families were disappointed. "We did it right!" will counter the "old" returnees. But the wound ran too deep, America and the AFS'ers had both changed. Hadn't this visit become too superficial? Three days here, two days there --- half of the time devoted to parties, talent shows, etc. While at the same time we knew about the presence of local problems such as Chicano integration, the slums or this or that. No, we were no longer able to be those "nice little kids" --- which, to boot, is right in line with AFS's motto. Don't you remember? Let us really walk and talk together! Don't let's make things seem to be better than they are! Wasn't there a profound contradiction between the attitude that we were more or less supposed to have and what was being asked of us in terms of maturity and reflection in order to understand America, our AFS friends, the families? This is why AFS has changed. He who does not move forward goes backwards, as they say. But cheer up! All is not lost. The next "batch" will also come to know that atmosphere that so enchanted us.
Christine Vuillequez, "Bus Trip", AFS France, n° 14, Paris, October 1971
On both sides of the Atlantic, the Establishment was being severely called to task in a conflict of generations. Politics and philosophy were in the air.
These philosophical aspects of AFS really weren't discussed much in Steve's time. He just ran a hell of a good program. Steve didn't have time to theorize. [...] I have always believed that placing well-chosen students in good families, and giving support and encouragement to the positive development of relationships was a good thing of itself. And I wasn't about to spend my days trying to analyze how much political connotation there was to this or that experience. AFS provided an enormous process of growth and learning, social awareness, perceptions and whatever the individual himself chose to bring into it. But everyone keeps asking what are its implications for American hegemony of the world? Are we just turning everyone into Americans? Pushed by these questions, I developed my own thinking about the whole process of what I call "denationalization", and I was satisfied that AFS far less than any other program skilfully reduces this hazard. [...] One of the glories of this program has been its success in helping people back into the mainstream of their own places. [...] On the whole, we've sent back into developing and developed countries alike a lot of people with some tremendously significant awarenesses, very little affected by American propagandizing. These people understand America a whole lot better and are therefore far less liable to misjudge us as a country. Positively put, they understand what we've said and why we say it. But I don't believe we've produced a lot of friends for America through AFS. I think we've produced thousands of people who make better citizens of an inter-related world. And the world has got to live together.
Arthur Howe, quoted in W.P. Orrick, The First Thirty Years, AFS International Scholarships, 1947-1976, New York: AFS, 1991.
Howe found himself facing battles on two fronts with Returnees wanting to have more to say in the determination of AFS policy. On the home front, the rallying cry was "diversity". Abroad, its was "internationalization".
What about AFS elitism in the United States? As Howe lobbied for integration --- or reintegration --- of "little old ladies in tennis shoes" into local committees, he was far from insensitive to the concerns of a generation fighting for Civil Rights.
Within the U.S.A. there is interest on the part of many Returnees to make AFS participation possible for more ghetto children and schools. here too we are testing opportunities that can make AFS more relevant to our major internal issue in the U.S.A., but always we must proceed with respect for the needs of both parts of an AFS experience. I have offended some people by suggesting that neither I nor they would, short of necessity, send our children to a so-called ghetto school. Was it reasonable to place a Swiss AFS student in such a situation? Recognizing there are many inherent problems in such placements, we also know there is much more we can do than we have hitherto, and with the whole-hearted cooperation of the staff and a number of Returnee groups and Chapters, the AFS seeks more activity in the urbans centers of the nation.
Arthur Howe, Supra-national Concepts in AFS, January 1969, in W.P. Orrick, The First Thirty Years, AFS International Scholarships, 1947-1976, New York: AFS, 1991.
Ultimately, this effort to diversify AFS's base would move outside U.S. borders, where participants also represented the elite.
Finally I note that throughout the world, educational preparation of the level and quality we require is predominantly offered to those in the middle and upper classes. I was interested to note in a report recently sent me by one of our Directors that even in a country such as Sweden with its racial and religious unity and long tradition of government-provided social services, only 16% of the university entry came from that large group of people generally identified as the lower class.
Arthur Howe, Memorandum, 1968, in W.P. Orrick, The First Thirty Years, AFS International Scholarships, 1947-1976, New York: AFS, 1991.
Confronted with the concerns of Returnees outside the United States, Howe worked hard to change the AFS office mindset, the "lengthening shadow" of the Galatti days:
The other aspect of strong-arm government here, controlling everything from New York, that I had to contend with was with the offices overseas. We were in a delicate position. There really was warfare. And it continued the first three or four years I was here. There were two parts to it. There was the aspect of our autocratic method of dealing with them: everything was we tell you. The other problem was we had just begun, before I got here, the transition to returnee management in a few countries.
Arthur Howe, Jr, quoted in W.P. Orrick, The First Thirty Years, AFS International Scholarships, 1947-1976, New York: AFS, 1991.
The war cry outside the United States was "internationalization". For many, the word "American" in the Field Service name now seemed to have other implications than to identify the nationality of the volunteers running the field hospital at Neuilly's Lycée Pasteur or driving ambulances for the French and British armies.
From the beginnings in 1915 as a volunteer war-time service in France; in its inter-war graduate scholarship program; in its World War II activities in France, the Near East, North Africa, Europe and Burma; and in its post World War II scholarship activities, the AFS' identification as an "American" organization seemed appropriate. Today there are still many aspects of its structure and operation which support its status as a U.S. organization, for the corporation through which its activities are conducted is an American one, over two-thirds of its resources are provided from the U.S., and the great majority of its legal members are U.S. citizens. Even more significantly, every student participating in its programs comes to or goes from the U.S.A. and 59 other countries.
Arthur Howe, from a Memorandum, January 1967, quoted in W.P. Orrick, The First Thirty Years, AFS International Scholarships, 1947-1976, New York: AFS, 1991.
The old AFS "ambassadors", now integrated into the program administrative structure outside the United States, were confronted with young anti-American idealists. And what was there to do when this international exchange program was called the American Field Service and was limited to bilateral exchanges with the United States? Howe was sympathetic to the problem and suggested that AFS's official name be changed to Associated Field Service, giving a number of reasons why:
1) Approximately two-thirds of the 43,000 students who have participated in and now feel closely affiliated with it are not American citizens.
2) The ultimate significance of AFS lies in its personalized impact on each participant, host family and schoolmate, providing them with unusual insights and skills for the complex task of living with their fellow men everywhere. These objectives are achieved primarily through the voluntary labor and financial support of private citizens throughout the world. Both the purpose and the administration of AFS are misrepresented by a name implying, at least to some people, the American Government's control and nationalistic American purposes.
3) Awareness of our extensive activities overseas forces me to recognize that very large numbers of deeply loyal AFS volunteer workers are not Americans, nor are the organizations they have created American. In approximately sixteen countries we have a legalized or otherwise officially recognized branch having its own national entity.
Arthur Howe, memorandum to Trustees, in W.P. Orrick, The First Thirty Years, AFS International Scholarships, 1947-1976, New York: AFS, 1991.
Diversity? Internationalization? The direction things would take would be formulated during the first AFSIS Convention, a debate between generations, held in Atlantic City, N.J. in September of 1971 and celebrating the first 25 years of the AFS exchange programs.
The twenty-fifth anniversary of the American Field Service, a organization offering hospitality in families to young people, founded in the United States at the end of the last war, has just been celebrated in Atlantic City with a certain ceremoniousness in the presence of two thousand people. It proved two things at least: the "generation gap" is even more striking on this side of the Atlantic than in Europe, but at the same time it appears, in many respects, to be less irremediable.
A new avatar of a volunteer ambulance driver service established during the First World War, the American Field Service youth exchanges are feeling the pain, at a time of student protest, of their philanthropic origins, and the hundreds of former scholarship holders who converged from five continents to attend the Atlantic City congress did not mince their words: outdated institution with ulterior motives of neo-colonialism; ridiculous to confine 17-year-old boys and girls to the cocoons of right-thinking families and conformist high schools; urgency of responding to the new-found aspirations of students in their last year of high school who today are no longer children and when in a foreign country want to see the "ghettos", the racial minorities, the proletariat, the student protesters, and not just the reassuring rigmarole of its small provincial habitats, between a pair of picnics and two presentations at the local Rotary club or its equivalent.
Dialogue proves to be difficult. While the official tribune resounds with appeals to great emotions and universal peace, the corridors bristle with protests, often couched in bold terms. The Americans, Italians, Germans and Scandinavians are particularly adamant; the French, Spanish and South Americans a little more respectful of the traditional family structures which offered them hospitality three, five or ten years ago.
What can be done to restore AFS to its rôle as most peaceful initiator of "international understanding"?
Opinions diverge rather fundamentally. For former scholarship holders, now students or young professionals and readily anti-establishment, if there is a risk of incomprehension, it is no longer between geographical entities, but between social or cultural groups. And they propose several "revolutionary" measures: the hosting of students in less well-to-do families, less representative of the "silent majority", younger, indeed with non-married couples, if they could be an interesting milieu for young foreigners (a shudder runs across the room at this thought); the shortening of stays (a year may be long in a family of "stay-at-homes"; the possibility of paid work outside the family, if only to follow the example of what many young Americans do in the summer; the extension of exchanges to less favored social categories and to students of technical schools.
The parents, members of the local committees who, with the high schools, coordinate the hosting of young foreigners --- and their financing --- have, to say the least, different ideas. Specifically, they suggest lowering the age of scholarship holders to thirteen or fourteen. An age where one is normally less subject to the enticements of political protest, sexual freedom, not to mention drugs... A few anecdotes circulate throughout the congress: there is the one about the young Norwegian girl who had asked to be placed with a black family, was so, but who had serious problems when she showed up at her freshly "integrated" high school. There was also the one about the young Italian of particularly virulent militancy, who as soon as he arrived began to participate in all the demonstrations against the Vietnam War and for racial integration, who was arrested and became the darling of the local press... until his American "family" threw in the towel and sent him back to New York.
Taken to task, shaken in some of their most intimate convictions, the parents --- the great majority of whom were Americans --- seemed better able to weather this hailstorm of hard truths than their European counterparts under similar circumstances. Used to free discussion, tradition of fair play, as suggested, with a hint of regret, a young Italian leftist? Doubtless a bit of both. Even after the biting comments of a young American who, at the moment of the congress' closing, accused the organization's directors pêle-mêle of close-mindedness, class consciousness, political illiteracy and colonialism, the reactions remained restrained. And one could hear more than one member of the establishment of some small town in Iowa or Wisconsin, seriously discussing the way to open up their local committees more widely to black or Indian families...
Nicole Bernheim, "Atlantic-City, 25e anniversaire de l'American Field Service", in Le Monde, Oct 9, 1971
After the Atlantic City Convention, the discussions continued at the World Congress, some hundred miles to the northwest of New York City.
The World Congress took place in the USA in the sumptuous setting of Lake Mohonk, NY, from September 21 to 25, 1971. Thus, it immediately followed the World Convention in Philadelphia [sic] which had been, for the official delegates, its introduction.
Contrary to the Convention where the majority of the audience came from the Unites States, the participants at the Congress were mostly non-American. [...] In the end, there were therefore about 150 people, representing all sectors of AFS, which conferred the Congress with a definite overall representativeness.
The general aim was, as Liz Bauer (representing the Board of the American Returnee Association) put it in her introductory speech, "to come to an agreement on the orientation AFS should take and to thus determine the course of its history for the years to come."
The main subjects covered:
a) Orientation [...] The definitive text was finally approved unanimously:
"AFS seeks to promote peace by stimulating an awareness of mankind's common humanity both between and within nations and by encouraging a wider understanding of the diverse cultural, social and physical environments which make up world society. It acknowledges that peace can be threatened as much by social injustices between nations and within nations as by international tensions.
"In pursuit of this goal,the core of the AFS experience has been the unique relationships in which a family accepts a maturing young person from a different cultural background and in which young people accept, for the duration of their experience, a new family and educational situation. In addition, through experience and experimentation, AFS encourages new models and opportunities for exchange.
AFS, an international organization, does not concern itself with reli-gious, political or partisan affiliations. The AFS experience is based on listening and parti-cipating on an individual basis within the commu-nity as well as within the family.
"AFS encourages all former participants to involve themselves with situations in which they can apply and project their AFS experience."
b) Internationalizing AFS.
This matter of the internationalization of AFS was also bitterly discussed. The following compromise, relatively moderate, was finally approved by the Congress:
"It is the overwhelming consensus of the delegates of the AFS 1971 World Congress that the control and policy making process in AFS be further internationalized. Recognizing that there are alternative routes to this end and that these alternatives require legal, financial, organizational and other forms of expertise, we request that the AFS Trustee Members appoint an international committee to examine this question."
It should be remarked that this subject gave rise to a temporary split among the representatives at the Congress: the debates showed two blocks to be opposed, one to the other: the United States and Europe (or rather the present AFS International and the majority of the European representatives) and appeared to the representatives of other continents like a power struggle between a "possessive mother and her eldest son in the midst of gaining his independence".
The changing of the name American Field Service to AFS International Scholarships did not appear to resolve the problems, notably, of the Latin-American countries. One of the discussion groups made the following proposition: "In order to assist the national offices in their fundraising efforts, the Congress requests that the Board of Trustees consider with all urgency changing the name of the organization, replacing the word American by a term which conveys the wider concept of "international".
c) European Federation
The European delegates met several times to discuss the project of a European Federation. It was clear to everyone that it was not a matter of creating a rigid supplementary structure and that the Federation would not be giving the task of managing existing programs. [...]
In conclusion, I should like to note and to express my regrets that this project should have been poorly understood, be it by certain representatives of AFS International or by the majority of the African, Asian and Latin American representatives. I should recall here the clarifications made to the entire Congress by the Italian Delegate and state again that our aim, in establishing this federation is in no way to create a "superblock" capable of opposing the United States and, in the long term, of substituting ourselves for them to "govern" AFS. This project is the result of an evolution: 25 years of participating in the programs have allowed us to mature to the point where it seems both possible and necessary to better organize to participate more actively in the reinforcement of AFS in its entirety and it is in that entirety that it seems to me that AFS should rejoice in this evolution.
d) Extra-Scholastic Experiences[...]
The debate was centered on the importance that should be given to this extra-scholastic experience; some delegates were in favor of simply suppressing the obligation to attend High School regularly and replacing it entirely by social work in some form. The majority however preferred a more flexible approach in which the extra-scholastic experience would complement the academic experience. [...]
e) Multi-National Program
One of the concrete results, already put into action, of this tendency towards a greater "internationalization" certainly seems to be the Multi-National Program
Michel Daspet, "Rapport du Congrès mondiale d'AFS/1971", AFS France, Nov 1971
The multinational program was created. Henceforth, an AFS'er no longer had to come from or go to the United States. The word American took refuge behind its acronym: the Comité français de l'American Field Service became AFS-Vivre Sans Frontière. In Italy and Portugal, AFS would simply be called Intercultura and, in New York, AFS Intercultural Programs. In Europe, the AFS committees founded Europa, which would become EFIL, (European Federation of Intercultural Learning), creating its own programs (Young Workers Exchange), running seminars and workshops while, in combination with AFS International's Joint Office Bureau in Brussels, overseeing the management of local AFS programs. The Intercultural Era would evolve under the sign of dialogue: walk together, talk together. East-West exchanges were begun with the USA-USSR Teacher's Program, in 1972.
In the U.S. and abroad, a dynamic, young generation of AFS'ers were impatient to leave the days of the crusading ambulance drivers behind, and take the Programs on to further glories. By the end of 1971, Arthur Howe had done his bit and an old back injury put on the finishing touches. He had created an institution and left it with this challenging vision:
However our structure develops, I envisage AFS International in New York as the coordinating headquarters of a cooperative effort reaching around the world, laying down through its staff, under the policy guidance of trustees and directors, the broad uniform policies that are required, and leaving to individual countries a large degree of autonomy for adjustment to national needs.
I also foresee the desirability of our retaining to the degree possible a non-political position, avoiding alignment with any nation or block of nations while vigorously pursuing our purpose of promoting understanding between people and enriching the insights and skills of young people who will play a major role in shaping the future.
Finally, I sense the necessity of avoiding the temptation to become all things to all people. With our remarkable world-wide affiliations, we have the inherent capacity to undertake new programs and operations, many of which may be desirable, but which may divert us from our principal task and so dissipate our energies that we become ineffective. The day is not far off when a recognizable proportion of the world's leadership will have had an affiliation with AFS, and this will enlarge our capacity and bring increased proposals for new activities.
Arthur Howe, quoted in W.P. Orrick, The First Thirty Years, AFS International Scholarships, 1947-1976, New York: AFS, 1991.
Sometimes AFS is pushed towards reckless desertion of its primary and superbly conducted business by warnings that we're growing dull from "doing the same old thing." I say to you, "just like the same old process of the birth of a child."
W.P. Orrick, The First Thirty Years, AFS International Scholarships, 1947-1976, New York: AFS, 1991.