Growing up, I never understood what my dad’s job entailed. His security clearances required he not share a whole lot about the specifics, but he would often tell me his job involved “keeping the world safe for democracy.”
The older I got, I tended to laugh a little when he would say that phrase; it seemed a little tongue-in-cheek, a nod to the fact that he couldn’t tell me just how dangerous his job was. A veteran of the Cold War, his job entailed managing parts of the U.S. nuclear arsenal and being an expert at deterrence theory. He literally kept the world safe.
In my own public service career, I have made similar passing comments about my work, often when talking to my peers. What do I do? I change lives. I’m a champion for children. I’m helping the future. All idealistic catch phrases I’ve said over the past 17 years, sometimes sarcastically, sometimes not.
Ernest Hooper, a columnist with the Tampa Bay Times wrote a piece this week about his experience at the Journalism Education Association’s Fall Convention. It’s fantastic. You should read it.
I’ve taught media literacy in some capacity my entire career, but I’m not sure how I would’ve answered if people asked me on a regular basis why I feel so strongly about teaching media literacy. I’d probably fall back on those catch phrases.
But Hooper’s column gives me the real answer: “Protecting [democracy] begins with educating a new generation that you can’t have freedom without a free press.”
With public education under attack locally through LB 295 and at the national level with the House’s tax reform bill (the Senate’s bill is a bit more supportive of education), I get discouraged about my job and wonder how much longer I’ll be able to do it. Especially since I teach journalism, and if you haven’t heard, the current leader of the free world doesn’t take too kindly to journalists.
My current job feels a bit precarious.
But tonight, I have a renewed sense of purpose, thanks to Hooper. I might be changing lives and teaching the future and whatever teaching cliché you want to throw at me.
But really, I’m keeping the world safe for democracy.
I’m a Rowse. It’s what we do.