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Caught Between the Dog and the Fireplug, or How to Survive Public Service (Text Teach / Policies) 0th Edition

4.4 out of 5 stars 26 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0878408474
ISBN-10: 0878408479
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Editorial Reviews

Review

"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

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

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Product Details

  • Series: Text Teach / Policies
  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Georgetown University Press (March 2, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0878408479
  • ISBN-13: 978-0878408474
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.6 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #47,973 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
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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Excellent read. It was an assignment for a course in Public Administration, however, I kept it due to the information for survival. I will pick it up & read some of the sections I have marked. They are often helpful with many situations. I highly recommend this book for anyone venturing into management or public service.
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If I didn't need this book for class I would have never purchased it. The author rambles in circles with a bunch of common sense theories and no solid scholarly terms or theories. Lots of "he said, she said"
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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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Format: Paperback
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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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 well). I'm about half-way through the book and have enjoyed each chapter. A lot of what Mr. Ashworth recommends gels with what I've learned or had supervisors tell me in the past. These are highly-linked skills with a public sector position and would help anyone jumping into the fray. If there is one gripe with the book, it's that it is frequently focused on a federal level of gov't interaction. Not all public servants will be sitting before legislatures, senate committees, etc. It would be nice to get more insight from the local (i.e. city manager, city council etc.) level. However, it seems that Mr. Ashworth spent a great deal of his career at this federal level and it is perhaps what he relates with the most.
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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 we have chosen. While it is discouraging to know that there is much to overcome as a public administrator, I have a renewed fervor to see it through. I can hope that those whom your book was read by walked away with the many jewels that it had to offer. You are very funny and honest Thank You.
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