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Caught Between the Dog and the Fireplug, or How to Survive Public Service (Texts and Teaching/Politics, Policy, Administration series) [Paperback]

Kenneth Ashworth
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)

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Book Description

March 2, 2001 0878408479 978-0878408474 0

Replete with practical advice for anyone considering a career in federal, state, or local government, Caught between the Dog and the Fireplug, or How to Survive Public Service conveys what life is really like in a public service job. The book is written as a series of lively, entertaining letters of advice from a sympathetic uncle to a niece or nephew embarking on a government career.

Kenneth Ashworth draws on more than forty years of public sector experience to provide advice on the daily challenges that future public servants can expect to face: working with politicians, bureaucracy, and the press; dealing with unpleasant and difficult people; leading supervisors as well as subordinates; and maintaining high ethical standards. Ashworth relates anecdotes from his jobs in Texas, California, and Washington, D.C., that illustrate with humor and wit fundamental concepts of public administration.

Be prepared, says Ashworth, to encounter all sorts of unexpected situations, from the hostile to the bizarre, from the intimidating to the outrageous. He shows that in the confrontational world of public policymaking and program implementation, a successful career demands disciplined, informed thought, intellectual and personal growth, and broad reading. He demonstrates how, despite the inevitable inefficiencies of a democratic society, those working to shape policy in large organizations can nonetheless effect significant change-and even have fun along the way.

The book will interest students and teachers of public administration, public affairs, policy development, leadership, or higher education administration. Ashworth's advice will also appeal to anyone who has ever been caught in a tight spot while working in government service.

Frequently Bought Together

Caught Between the Dog and the Fireplug, or How to Survive Public Service (Texts and Teaching/Politics, Policy, Administration series) + Jobs That Matter: Find a Stable, Fulfilling Career in Public Service + Studying Public Policy: Policy Cycles and Policy Subsystems
Price for all three: $77.17

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Editorial Reviews


"A 'must' for anyone aspiring to a career in public service at any level, Caught Between the Dog And The Fireplug is highly readable yet filled with sensible observations and recommendations." -- Wisconsin Bookwatch

"Quite often an academic assumes that a book of anecdotes provides 'war stories' but little insight. This book, however, richly combines real experience with solid advice that would benefit even the most experienced public administrator. Ashworth's book performs the rare feat of providing an amusing look at public service while maintaining the importance of service to the commonweal." -- Public Administration Review

"Kenneth Ashworth's letters...are a wonderful, witty, and literate distillation of a distinguished career in public service." -- Bill Hobby, former Lieutenant Governor of Texas and former Chancellor of the University of Houston System

"I would recommend this book to any student of public service. Kenneth Ashworth tells it like it is, using a rich collection of experience, anecdotes, and lessons in the real-life workings of our government." -- Charles B. Reed, Chancellor, California State University

About the Author

Kenneth Ashworth is adjunct professor at the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs, University of Texas at Austin and visiting scholar at the George Bush School of Government and Public Service, Texas A&M University. Among his many positions in public service, he served as Texas Commissioner of Higher Education.

Product Details

  • Series: Texts and Teaching/Politics, Policy, Administration series
  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Georgetown University Press (March 2, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0878408479
  • ISBN-13: 978-0878408474
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #107,846 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
This is an excellent book for beginning students of public administration or practitioners new to public service. It makes an excellent companion to an introductory textbook in Public Administration or American Government. Ashworth wrote the book as a series of letters to a niece who has decided to enter public service as a career. Each letter covers a theme of public service from an experienced practitioner's viewpoint, and is jam packed with useful advice. I especially found Ashworth's reflections on the political nature of public service useful and insightful.

I have very few problems with this book. One problem is that some of the chapters ramble, just like a real letter would. This makes each chapter very readable and a welcomed break from the dry approach most textbooks take to the subject. This is why it makes an excellent supplementary text to an introductory public administration textbook. However, this approach might make it difficult for students to remember the insights and practical advice of each letter.

Another problem is that a few of Ashworth's reflections are superficial. For example, his chapter on ethics comes across to me as pontification, not unlike a good person who has rarely studied the foundations of ethics, but now ponders such questions after a successful and fulfilling career. I have found that older professors in universities often believe they are qualified to teach ethics merely because they have lived a long time and want to indulge in some personal reflections. They ask questions about ethics without taking a disciplined approach to discover how others have attempted to answer such questions or why they reached their conclusions. Then, such professors make some remarks about their own ethics, leaving the foundational questions unanswered.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Certainly livelier than a Organizational Theory book ;-) November 27, 2006
By J. Naik
In his book "Caught between the dog and the fireplug", Ashworth has managed to take the sometimes boring subject of public service and made it humorous and anecdotal. Definitely a worthwhile reading for any student of public administration and especially beneficial to me, since I am involved in the educational field of public sector. It gives us real life applications of public administration theories and models used to formulate public policies by the author and behind the scenes look at public policy in the making. Ashworth feels the pressures of being a public servant who is required to serve the needs of the people but is at the same time has to answer to the requests of elected officials who are "never equal" in status to a public servant. It gives credence to theories by many experts who believe that elaborate constraints on public managers deprive them of authority to carry out their jobs and frustrate them professionally. In spite of this the author continues to do his job the best he can inside of the constraints of his domain and manages to influence public policy to benefit the public that he serves from the "bottom-up".
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a favorite book August 17, 2009
There really aren't enough books about what it's like to work in public service. This one is a pleasure to read, and I've given it to colleagues when I really want them to succeed.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Rave Reviews January 13, 2008
Had this book for an MPA class--it was the hidden gem for that semester! The advice is given in an easy-to-read narrative, presented as personal correspondence between an uncle and his neice/nephew who are aspiring to public service careers. The insights are powerful and the prose is well-written. A must-read for those with an interest in the public or non-profit sectors.
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2.0 out of 5 stars Dear Wormwood March 19, 2014
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Ashworth is writing to the imaginary, gender neutral Kim about public service. But he isn't very service-minded.

The sub-title," how to survive public service," should have been "how to survive when you have a public service position." The guy just doesn't seem to have gone into it as much for service as for glory or as a stepping stone to a better job.

It doesn't help that the voice is very much like the title character in The Screwtape Letters, which led to my reading it with irony. I kept thinking I was reading "Brutus is an honorable man," or "A Modest Proposal" or any of those other things where the writer means the exact opposite and expects you to know it.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Superb! March 7, 2014
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
If you work as a public servant in any level of government this is the best practical manual out there! It is also very entertaining to read!
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5.0 out of 5 stars Love this book March 5, 2014
By Chad
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I'm going into public administration and I have found this book to be a great help in giving me a vision of what the career will be like.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Required for college course February 5, 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Easy to read. The author is knowledgable about the topic and he does a good job of communicating his experience and advice.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
2.0 out of 5 stars Missing pages
I open this book to read the assigned pages (1-88). I started reading and discovered that there were 15 completely blank pages. Read more
Published 8 months ago by Yvette McElroy
3.0 out of 5 stars Needed for school
This book was required for school. It is however a much better read than some of the other public administration texts.
Published 9 months ago by Nicole H.
5.0 out of 5 stars What to expect in life of public service.
Great book. Each chapter is a different letter to his niece attending school studying public administration. Interesting and keeps your attention.
Published 15 months ago by carolyn weingard
5.0 out of 5 stars THE BEST book on government service!
This is written in the form of a series of letters from an experienced, high level manager in government service to a relative who is just starting out. Read more
Published 16 months ago by Dan Knowlton
5.0 out of 5 stars Good book
Book arrived on time and in good condition. I was also pleased how enjoyable this book was, which was surprising for a text for a class.
Published 18 months ago by Robert F. Scott
5.0 out of 5 stars A real View
Thank You Mr. Ashworth for giving public administration students a "real" viewpoint. So many times as students we are bombarded with the rosier pictures of the field that... Read more
Published 18 months ago by Diemesha McMiller
5.0 out of 5 stars Very useful and accurate
I'm currently in a masters program for public administration (I had four years in the field before heading back to school, so there's a bit of practical knowledge in my head as... Read more
Published 19 months ago by Drew Alexander
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Service!
I needed this textbook for my classes. I ordered the book just 8 days before classes were scheduled to begin. This seller delivered the book to me within 3 business days. Read more
Published on May 13, 2012 by Derrick K. Thompson
5.0 out of 5 stars AMAZING!
WOW! Great Job! I received the book within the week that I ordered it which is incredible! Plus the book is in an extremely great condition for being "used".
Thank you
Published on August 10, 2011 by madness
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