Widgetized Section

Go to Admin » Appearance » Widgets » and move Gabfire Widget: Social into that MastheadOverlay zone

About Time…

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ASPA as an organization.

By Dwight Vick
November 18, 2022

When I received the July/August, 2022 edition of PAR: Public Administration Review and saw Szydlowski, de Boer and Tummer’s research article, “Compassion, Bureaucrat Bashing, and Public Administration,” I was filled with gratitude. If I were to summarize my contributions to PA Times over the past years, it would be for us, as public service professionals, to remain positive and promote our often-unnoticed public deeds that we perform through public awareness. The “Compassion” article studies compassionate behavior and community response reaffirming my firm belief that education is the key to our survival, particularly in times where educators, law enforcement, road construction crews and social workers face untold and surmounting public scrutiny. Szydlowski, de Boer and Tummer’s research shows what I knew all along and feared would not return.

If we teach the citizens we serve about the services we public administrators provide, public support of bureaucratic organizations will increase.

The “Compassion” article applied positive, compassionate behavior to Canadian social workers. They were given encouragement messages from citizens. The researchers used a preregistered experiment where “public sector workers’ struggles and imperfections makes citizens almost twice as likely to write an encouragement message. Hence, showing your weakness can be a strength.” Bureaucratic bashing has no effect on behavior, a fact all of us know. But one fact that we public administrators know, without doubt or question, is that these negative responses do not make us less compassionate toward public service. Negative responses can lead to increased frustration levels. Despite our current cultural climate, we somehow remain motivated beyond self-interest, to remain committed to public service.

For me, the “Compassion” article could not have been published at a better time.

Upon our return to west Texas, I decided to obtain my high school teaching certificate while teaching undergraduate and graduate courses at Texas A&M International University and Excelsior University.  Meanwhile, I maintained my publishing and nonprofit activities. All the while, I found myself, like many other middle-aged Americans, very involved in my grandson’s life, our primary reason for returning to Texas. On those days it seemed that my mindset could not escape the negativity we educators face today. All students seem traumatized by the COVID pandemic. My college and high school education colleagues seem overwhelmed with the undefined and unpredicted demands our students and schools face. Talking with other colleagues who work in public sector fields, it seemed as if they too faced similar situations. We shared a communal shift toward self-interest with little thought of the public we serve who seemed to be growing less grateful by the second. The “Compassion” article forced me to take stock in what matters beyond my immediate self.

The Compassion article reminds me of Late President George H.W. Bush’s phrase, “A Thousand Points of Light.” I looked for those public sector jobs that are going well. Instead of growing frustrated with road construction crews along the I-27/I-40 interchange in Amarillo, I became grateful for the future improvements. When someone tried to break into our home, local police responded immediately and handled the situation with care and professionalism. Instead of complaining about student challenges, I began asking what I could do. I then heard other public servants with whom I work and I have the privilege to teach use their own versions of positive compassion toward colleagues and other public servants. In turn, I heard members of the public we serve act similarly. I hope, and believe, our fellow citizens, despite the charges of fraud before the votes were tallied, are providing that same support for election officials in those states facing long hours issuing and counting ballots over the past few days.

But for me, Szydlowski, de Boer and Tummer’s article in PAR combined the internationality of the positive compassion to public service. I applaud PAR’s editorial staff for seeing the implications this article has on our field at all levels of society.

Bravo and about time…

Author: Dwight Vick is a regular contributor to PA Times.  He is an instructor with Texas A&M International University in Laredo, TX and Excelsior University located in Albany, NY.  He is a licensed high school teacher specializing in social studies and English.

1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (2 votes, average: 5.00 out of 5)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *