Civil Service

My favorite discussion this year in my Public Administration class centered around whether civil service was a calling [or not]. This led me to think about why I get so much satisfaction out of my government web design gig. The answer I usually shell out is because every day I get a chance to improve the way government interacts with its citizens. Despite this being true and the most immediate reward of my job, I figured there has to be more. It’s my family, and Catholic school.

My grandpa fought in World War II and then was was a mail carrier with a rural route for the Post Office for years. My mother taught special education her whole life. The Holy Cross brothers at Notre Dame also emphasized service. After awhile it gets ingrained. I enjoy working for the government because it is service-​driven, not profit-​motivated. Whenever I get a call forwarded to me from the help desk, I always make sure I don’t send them around on another bout of transfer-​tag. If I can’t answer their question or help them out, I make sure that if I do have to transfer them, they get sent to the exactly correct person, not just the correct office. The reward is their gratitude.

So, I guess it is easy to see where I fall on the argument. I feel called to civil service, so I think it is a calling.

It might seem like an exception, but the Selective Service (a fascinating Wikipedia article), and the fact that I had to register for the [non-​existent] draft in order to receive federal student loans is a big reason why I never signed up for the Armed Forces. I’m non-​combative by nature, but I’m also stubborn as hell when someone tries to force me to do something. It is fitting then, that I would resent signing up for the draft; it is an enforced civil service (among other things), and therefore inconsistent with my opinion that civil service is a calling.

3 thoughts on “Civil Service

  1. I know that the government helps out some, but when you work for a non-​profit, or for a government entity after graduation, you really should get *all* of your student loans cancelled on some sort of year for year (or maybe 2 years of service for 1 year of school) basis. I think that would encourage more students to consider spending some of their early years out of college doing some good in the world. Who knows they might like it enough to stay at it and change the world.

    The second part of that is that it would allow those with massive student loans to actually do the service or take the job they would rather do than to have to “sell out to the man” in order to pay off those loans.

  2. How did other people respond in your class discussion?

    I went into public service originally because I felt the same way as you. I always had a high opinion of public service agencies, so I wanted in on that. I was kind of surprised to find that other people didn’t — that there were people who equated “public servant” to “dirty slave,” and who would trot out the old, “my taxes pay your salary,” which almost always meant, “I expect you to break the rules for me.” This wasn’t a big part of the population, but they were loud and *mean*.

    I shouldn’t have let it bruise me like it did. But then again when I asked my dad (30 years with the VA) how he dealt with it, he thought about it for a minute and then said, “I smoked a lot!”

  3. jmay, I agree about the loan forgiveness. The current program is nice, but too little too late in the long run, I think.

    Christine, what was interesting to me was that the older folks in the class, those that had been out of school for awhile seemed more inclined to think that civil service is a calling. The students who were fresh into graduate school from undergrad didn’t seem to have much to say on the matter.

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