What Ever Happened to Vocations?

Short piece by William F. Gavin over at The Corner, National Review Online:

“It occurs to me that the concept of a “calling” or “vocation” has practically disappeared in public life. We settle for “education” or “career.” But a calling is not about what you learn or how much you make.”



Filed under Food for Thought, General Interest

2 responses to “What Ever Happened to Vocations?

  1. Kinnison

    Vocations… After retiring from the military I finished my Masters degree and taught public high school—World Geography, Government and AP U.S. History—to American kids for 17 years. When I left active duty I was offered a number of very attractive, well-paying jobs somewhere on the West Coast, from Southern California to Washington State, and turned them all down to teach high school juniors and seniors in the Idaho Panhandle. Idaho, 50th out of 50 states in pupil expenditure and teacher pay. Religious vocations require, most of them, vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. Teaching is about the same: you don’t get paid much, you must never, never touch the kids, and you are supposed to obey the administrators of your school and district. When I finished my Masters degree with a 4.0 GPA my Department Chair called me in and counseled me. He told me the consensus of the History faculty was that I should continue on to a PhD and teach at the college level. I chose to teach high school kids because I wanted to give something back after a 20+ year military career of traveling around the world killing people and breaking things. My dear wife, bless her—a PhD, a genius-level university professor and administrator who always made at least two to three times what I did as an Idaho teacher—considered my job a public service, knew I was good at it, knew that I was indeed making a difference, and fully supported me in my decision. The year I retired the graduating class asked me to be their commencement speaker. The advice I gave them was simple: Find something that you love doing, that will make a difference for good in the world, and that will help others, not because you will get rich doing it, not because it makes a significant difference in other people’s lives, but simply because it will make you happy. I looked forward to going to work every day of my teaching career. I made a difference, as indicated by the 350+ former students—7 of them now with PhD’s and more on the way—who are Facebook friends and who keep me apprised of their adventures. There are three officers of Marines, four Army officers and about a dozen NCO’s of all Services currently on active duty, following my example of service, and numerous teachers as well. One, a former student teacher of mine, is about to climb out of the pilot’s seat of his Marine SuperCobra gunship, begin his Masters program and then head off to Annapolis as a Marine major, tac officer and History instructor. Done right, a military career is a vocation too. A Navy Chaplain of my acquaintancce in the Philippines, a Jesuit, once told me he considered the Marine Corps one of only a few genuine religions left in the U.S.. Taken aback, I asked him, “Padre, are you joking?” He replied, “Marines are believers. They follow an exacting code of honor, life and conduct, they often live in primitive conditions in isolated areas, have very limited contact with the rest of society, make very little, eat simple food and are willing to die for each other and their beliefs. What else would you call the Corps besides a military religious order?” Vocations still exist, and are still important to this nation.

    • Thanks for sharing your inspiring testament to serving a cause greater than yourself. So many politicians wax on about serving our country, but all too often they only “talk” about selfless service, without ever doing a single thing that isn’t self-serving.

      That your students still keep in touch with you speaks volumes of how highly they value your teaching.

      I’m compiling ideas for a series of children’s books on American history that I’d like to write, incorporating important American themes and historical figures into a fictional modern-day narrative with characters, who are faced with modern-day problems. By finding historical role models, with inspirational life stories, these modern-day characters learn to tackle their challenging situations. The 9-12 age group is the age group that interests me – that’s when my interest in American history really took off and I began my life-long reading fixation on George Washington – I have even read his general orders to get a feel for his command decision-making process.

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