Sunday, February 12, 2012

Civil Service - Aspiration or Fall-Back Plan?

Greetings, one and all.  You may recall that, in addition to stepping my little heart out in preparation for the stair climb, February is also the start of our "academic" training.  So I've started my first of three exam prep books.  Here it is:

Sorry about the crappy quality; the batteries in my camera are dead and I had to use my phone.

Anyhow, so last night I'm texting Alex about my training (a firefighter who, this morning, is probably questioning the wisdom of ever giving me his cell number in the first place) and it occurs to me...the premise of this book is insulting.  "Firefighter Exam for Dummies"? 

Yeah, I know this is a whole series of hundreds of different books, all with clever titles like "Low-Fat Cooking for Dummies," "Pilates for Dummies," blah blah blah.  I get that.  But I still see a social commentary here; a mindset amongst a certain group of Americans.  It says to me - college is the goal.  College is the perfect plum on the tree for which we reach.  Send your kid to college.  Scrimp, save, plan, sacrifice - do whatever it takes to get your children a college education.  If they don't have the grades, or if you don't have the financial resources, well - they can always "fall back" on the military...police work....EMT....firefighting.  At least they will have a job, right?

Excuse me?  Am I the only person who thinks this sounds ass-backwards? 

How about this.  Serving in the United States Armed Forces is a privilege and an honor.  Following the call of becoming a first responder is a privilege and an honor.  Raise your children to believe that, and guess what - it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.  The armed forces and first responder units will be populated with the best, the brightest, the most respected and most driven of our society.  Instead of using these career options as a fall-back plan, make them something to reach for...dream about...the elite.  If it turns out that your kid isn't mentally, physically, or emotionally able to perform one of these callings, well, there's always college, and plenty of other career options for them. 

When you are sitting around a table with a bunch of other moms of high school seniors, the words "my kid got into the military!" should result in gasps and tears of motherly pride, not sympathetic little smiles and crap like "oh, good, that's much more suited to his temperament than college."  Civil service is Harvard.  The military is Yale.  You don't just "get in".  You have to work for it, you have to earn it.

This is why I will never support mandatory military service after high school, as some people do.  I understand the reasoning behind it, and think that it would be a good life experience for most of those kids - but it takes away the honor of service and would inevitably dilute the effectiveness of the unit with people who just can't cut it.

I'm sick of hearing losers trash our police forces - our 911 dispatchers - our firefighters - our paramedics when something goes horribly wrong in an emergency situation.  I'm tired of reading about military men and women acting "inappropriately" in wartime situations.  Trust me, my rose-colored glasses are firmly OFF.  I personally know loads of military servicemen and first responders, and yes, some of them are turdbuckets, just like the population in general.  But the majority of them are well-trained professionals who are faced with making life-altering decisions in an emergency situation, and do it to the very best of their ability with the information they have at the time.  I've been in a burning building with a fire hose in my hand.  I wanted to drop it and run.  Thank God there are those among us who have the internal fortitude to stay on scene and do what needs to be done.

It's the goal, folks.  It's the aspiration.  These are the rock stars, these are the superheroes.  That kid who decided to study fire science in the evenings at community college and go to work at the local fire department, rather than going to a four-year school like the rest of the kids in his senior class?  He could be hauling your smoke-inhaled sorry ass down a couple flights of stairs someday.  So give his hand an extra-firm shake when he tells you his plans, and save your sympathetic smile for that kid who's going to college for an "undetermined" major.

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