Leading for Equity

–submitted by Larry Larrabee; photo by Mark Moody

Photo7AAt the March 20th meeting, Madison Metropolitan School District (MMSD) Superintendent Dr. Jen Cheatham explained her approach to “Leading for Equity,” the title of her presentation.

As she explained, she was not going to provide us with her usual update on the Madison Schools.  Instead, she wanted to share her personal leadership story on how she has become a stronger leader in education, particularly in the area of equity.  Dr. Cheatham said that her presentation was related to MMSD’s new strategic plan or framework which emphasizes a renewed approach to racial and gender equity.  Copies of the plan were available to Rotarians after the presentation.

In her personal story, Supt. Cheatham spoke of her childhood growing up in greater Chicago and her subsequent years as a classroom teacher at the high school and middle school levels.  From this, she chose to enter graduate school at Harvard because of her new interest in effecting instructional programs on a larger basis than an individual classroom.

There, her mentor of color helped her to see how her being a product of a white middle class upbringing could be used to power greater, larger and better programs that could address and improve on disparities in racial equity.

Last year she listened to over a thousand individuals of color: students, educators, community members and parents.  An example of one of the things she learned from the parents was that they wanted less emphasis on remediation of underachievers and more investment in students learning in a different, more accepting atmosphere of instruction.  This could lead to students feeling better about themselves and their abilities resulting in higher achievement levels.

It is this and other insights that are incorporated into the new Strategic Framework of the Madison Metropolitan School District.

Soglin vs. Rhodes-Conway

submitted by Stan Inhorn; photos by Mike Engelberger

Paul Soglin 3 13 2019    Satya Rhodes-Conway 3 13 2019

Abigail Becker from The Capital Times moderated the March 13th forum for the two mayoral candidates–incumbent Paul Soglin and Satya Rhodes-Conway. In his opening remarks, Soglin pointed out that when he became mayor in 2011, race and poverty were critical issues in Madison. Madison was not a racist city, but the national legacy of economic disparity, a biased criminal justice system, and lack of leadership have created this problem. Under his leadership in the last eight years, African-American unemployment has been reduced four-fold and household income has increased appreciably. Rhodes-Conway, who served on the City Council for three terms, now chairs the UW-Madison Center on Wisconsin Strategy. As mayor, her goals would include increasing affordable housing for residents at all levels of income. Another objective is to create a system that brings public transportation to more residents, by examining systems that work in other cities.

Regarding climate change, Paul indicated that most of the problem resides at the state and federal levels. Madison is one of many U.S. cities that stays focused on the Paris Accord. He is promoting the use of electric buses and solar power in cooperation with MG&E. Satya would promote the reduction of greenhouse gases by developing a better rapid transit system that would keep more cars off the road and by pushing for buildings that are more energy efficient.

In answer to the question on how to reduce debt service, Satya indicated that there is a need to improve the infrastructure and to distinguish between wants and needs, with the Judge Doyle Square an example of an unnecessary project. Paul suggested that from 2003 to 2011 the City Council failed to provide for infrastructure although the budget skyrocketed.

Satya addressed racial inequality by noting that housing is restricted and middle-class minorities have difficulty moving into white-only neighborhoods. She suggested that police should be held accountable for their actions. Paul believes that minority businesses must be promoted. He believes that the city must work with developers to build apartments that included minority accessibility. Regarding the work of the City Council, Soglin believes that the council is too large for a city of its size. Rhodes-Conway noted that the committee system demands lots of time from its members, often without substantive results.

If you missed our meeting this week, you can watch the video here.

Culinary Arts at The Edgewater

submitted by Kathy Blumreich; photos by Charles McLimans

IMG_0071    IMG_0002 (1)  IMG_0052  IMG_0060

On Monday evening, March 11th, nearly 30 Rotarians and guests gathered in the Wine Room at The Edgewater for an event organized by the Culinary Arts Fellowship.  The Wine Room is an intimate venue on level 7 of The Edgewater right next door to Auggie’s Bar.  The room’s large windows allowed guests to enjoy the later sunset after “Springing forward” the day before.

IMG_0034  IMG_0036  IMG_0027

(Photo 1: Loretta Himmelsbach & Kathy Blumreich; Photo 2: Helen Sarakinos; Photo 3: Charles McLimans & Richard Merrion)

As the group gathered, we enjoyed a wonderfully presented assortment of local cheeses including jam, marcona almonds and house-made lavash. Following the social hour, the group enjoyed the 2nd course with a choice of Smoked Corn Chowder topped with fried shitake mushrooms or Organic Greens with lemon vinaigrette garnished with tomato and radish slices.

IMG_0019

From left: Paul & Sharon Hoffmann & Bob & Angie Garrison

The 3rd Course was a choice of Crispy Skin Chicken or Braised Beef Short Ribs both served with rosemary mashed red potatoes and roasted baby carrots. A delicious dessert of Blueberry Buckle served with vanilla bean ice cream completed the meal.

Thank you to Lynne Sexten for graciously organizing a very enjoyable evening. The Culinary Arts Fellowship group is planning several more events this year and hope others will join us.

Stories About Pioneers Who Settled in Wisconsin

submitted by Kevin Hoffman; photo by Mike Engelberger

Michael Stevens 3 6 2019

From left: Club President Jason Beren, Michael Stevens and Rotarian Loretta Himmelsbach serving as our club’s speaker greeter this week

Instead of writing about Wisconsin history in the pioneer era (1830-1850) from the perspective of the famous or leaders of that time, Dr. Michael Stevens chose to document the practical and emotional side of everyday existence for ordinary people.  What did it feel like to those who lived in a new situation from the land to weather to language to food to culture?

While there were many things to be negative about such as Wisconsin weather extremes, an imbalance in the male to female ratio (8 men to 5 women), poor food and hardship on the journey, having to learn a new language (English), loss of cultural affiliation, unfamiliar surroundings, and loneliness; the overall impression was that the pioneer had a positive outlook and balanced the difficulties against the opportunities, diversity, freedom and future prosperity they envisioned.

The trade-offs from having to learn English, live in rough conditions and with rough people, and missing their home country are the freedom they enjoyed to map their future, work hard for income and wealth, and the natural beauty of Wisconsin.

One essay of the time expressed the following about the Wisconsin Character:  There is a freedom and independence of mind – people think for themselves; an awakening spirit of enterprise – people are open to new ways of doing things; people work hard – they invest their sweat equity; and a public spiritedness about Wisconsinites – people support roads, schools, churches and a friendly interest in the welfare of all.

Dr. Stevens drew insights into the attitudes, humor and outlook of the early pioneer and the similarities to today’s Wisconsin Character.  The essay writer above said of his time:  “The settler here finds, within the limits of his acquaintance, people from all the states and many foreign countries, and those too have been formerly been engaged with a variety of occupations different from his own, so he acquires a great variety of new ideas and becomes much more liberal in all his opinions and life.”  Even through the hardships and inconveniences of the time, the pioneer’s outlook is not so different from our present-day Wisconsin outlook.

If you missed our meeting this week, you can watch the video here.

Increasing Religious Literacy at UW-Madison

submitted by Mary Borland; photo by Valerie Renk

Ulrich Rosenhagen 2 27 2019 Scale

Dr. Ulrich Rosenhagen (left) pictured here with Club President Jason Beren

Our guest speaker, Dr. Ulrich Rosenhagen, is the Director of Religion and Global Citizenry at UW-Madison. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Heidelberg in 2012 and is an author and researcher.

The mission of The Center for Religion and Global Citizenry (CRGC) is to increase UW-Madison students’ religious literacy and their facility for communicating across boundaries of faith so that they may function effectively as citizens of a religiously diverse world. This is achieved via two programs: The Interfaith Fellows Programs and The Interdisciplinary Religious Group.

The Center was established in August of 2017 after the closing of the Lubar Institute for the Study of Abrahamic Religions in June of 2016. The Center hopes to grow to become the hub for discussion of religious pluralism on the UW-Madison Campus and the greater Madison community. The CRGC is closely collaborating with The Interfaith Network at UW-Madison in order to promote interreligious literacy and cooperation on campus. The Interfaith Network at UW-Madison is a Registered Student Organization under the Associated Students of Madison.

Students meet weekly for conversation and to organize campus events. An upcoming example of a campus event is on April 6-7, titled, ‘The Intersections of Interfaith,’ an interfaith conference that highlights intersectionality— the interconnectedness of our religious, spiritual or atheist identities with our social identities. Through a series of workshops, panels and speakers, conference participants will learn the tools of interfaith leadership and explore the way identity shapes and complicates interfaith dialogue and activism. Because interfaith dialogue brings our identities into close contact with the identities of others, thinking intersectionally is crucial.

After the 9/11 attacks there was more public attention on the relevance of religion and how better understanding of religions can help explain international conflicts and the passions fueling them.  Expertise on religious principles is needed for diplomacy and many believe that the United States is religious but ignorant on religions. We need to understand the deep emotions of religion, not only the cognitive aspects of religion.

During the Q&A segment, it was stated that the number of Americans who do not identify with any religion continues to grow at a rapid pace. One-fifth of the U.S. public – and a third of adults under 30 – are religiously unaffiliated today, the highest percentages ever in Pew Research Center polling. This is referred to as the rise of the “nones”. Most religiously unaffiliated Americans think that churches and other religious institutions benefit society by strengthening community bonds and aiding the poor. With few exceptions, though, the unaffiliated say they are not looking for a religion that would be right for them.

Dr. Rosenhagen helped us better understand the importance of religious literacy to our world.

    If you missed our meeting this week, you can watch the video on our club’s YouTube Channel here.

 

Telling the Stories of Madison’s Earliest African American Residents

submitted by Rich Leffler; photo by Valerie Renk

Muriel Simms 2 20 2019

From left: Marci Henderson, Ron Luskin & Muriel Simms

Our speaker on Wednesday, amidst a snow storm, was Dr. Muriel Simms, the author of a new book, “Settlin’: Stories of Madison’s Early African American Families,” published by the Wisconsin Historical Society Press. The dedication to the book captures its essence: “To the African American families who settled in Madison in the 1800s and early 1900s. They showed strength, courage and pride as they made a better life for themselves and for others in the community.” And Dr. Simms’ talk illustrated this with the stories of people in the book.

Dr. Simms began by speaking about the importance of the oral tradition in the Black community, and oral histories done by Dr. Simms provide much of the content of her book. She also spoke of what motivated her to write the book. She was always interested in history, and she wondered about the ancestral Black families in Madison, including her parents: her mother joined her father here in 1925.

The talk featured stories and photographs of some of the people in the book in four broad categories: military, sports, volunteerism and “other.” Dr. Simms began with a newspaper article from the Wisconsin State Journal about the return of “Buck” Weaver from service during World War II. The headline referred to him as a “Beloved ‘Red Cap’ at the bus station.” He had been killed shortly before the end of the war. She mentioned Al Dockery, a star athlete at Madison Central High; Lois McKnight, a music teacher who volunteered wherever a musician was needed; and Velma Hamilton, one of Madison’s greatest citizens. There were important Black civic groups such as the Utopia Club, the Wisconsin State Federation of Colored Women, and the National Association for the Protection of Colored Women, and the NAACP (Velma Hamilton was the first president of the Madison branch in 1943). Dr. Simms discovered many of these organizations in the issues of the Wisconsin Weekly Blade, the first Black newspaper in Wisconsin, founded in 1916 by J. Anthony Josey, who declared in his mission statement his belief that “the Negro has in his own hands his destiny.”

It was a great talk. If you missed it because of the snow, get a copy of the book and read it.

19th Annual Ethics Symposium Held on February 15 at Monona Terrace

submitted by Joyce Bromley

Ethics 1  Ethics 2

On this very day (February 15th), 2418 years after the city of Athens sentenced Socrates to death for corrupting the minds of youth and for impiety (399 BC), Rotary had the audacity to hold its 19th annual Ethics Symposium in the City of Madison.  President Jason Beren gave a heartwarming welcome and an overview of the many ways Rotary contributes to the betterment of the world.  He invited students to become a part of Rotary beginning with Interact.

Nearly 200 students representing 11th graders from 19 area high schools met at the Monona Terrace to learn how to think about issues beyond their own welfare—and how to act ethically.  Students were assigned to various groups throughout the Symposium.  This scramble allowed them to have discussions with students from various backgrounds.  Students represented large urban schools and smaller schools, some from rural areas; students whose families are first generation immigrants, or are themselves immigrants; privileged and underprivileged; well-represented in society and others who feel under-represented; and students from different racial and ethnic backgrounds.

We are faced with dilemmas every day.  Some dilemmas are large, some are small; some are personal, some involve a community; some require an immediate response and some take time to resolve.  Many are gut-wrenching and can either strengthen a relationship or destroy it.  Some keep you in a group, others make you an outsider.  Often dilemmas do not have a right or wrong answer.  Ethics training provides a framework to analyze how to arrive at a socially beneficial action.

Our own Rotarian, Anthony Gray, CEO of the Institute for Global Ethics, led the call and over 50 volunteers carried the Rotary virtual “banner.”  Among the Rotarians were seasoned ethicists who had worked with the Symposium for several years, and those who joined for the first time.  We were privileged to be trained in an ethical approach prior to the Symposium.  This training provided a well-organized process for the day and helped us utilize each session—essential for each breakout group of 20 students.  You cannot fool students. They would know if we had been unprepared.  Clearly, we passed the test.

IMG_1165    Ethics 5  Ethics 4

The warm-up to ethics training began with performances by college students from the Edgewood College Theatre.  These topics introduced dilemmas related to how to make transgender students safe in locker rooms; effects of racial profiling; and a reaction to a request for a job recommendation.

Students I interviewed as they arrived in the morning had a variety of reasons for attending the Symposium.  Some were encouraged to attend, because it would look good on college applications. Others were open to a new experience–they wanted an opportunity to engage with other students beyond their own environment, as well as to learn how to reflect on leaders’ speeches. And many had altruistic reasons.  Most students expressed an interest in caring about people and wanting to find ways to work together to find better solutions to life’s uncertainties.  One expression was powerful: “This is now “our” world, and we need to know how to define it better.”

IMG_1169  Ethics 3  IMG_1164

Using the Rotary framework these students were presented with dilemmas, and they practiced how to conduct themselves by using standard behavior toward others.  Initially, they were asked to report their “gut reaction.”  Then they began to use the “ethics skills set” in the framework for analysis.  In the end they reported their “final decision.”

  • Recognize an ethical issue—a dilemma cannot be solved until it can be identified.
  • Obtain information about the situation—get facts and collect data.
  • Test alternative actions from various perspectives in 4 stages:  Stage 1: What action benefits me most? (Egoism); Stage 2: What actions do my friends or group members think I should do? (Social Group Relativism); Stage 3: What action would produce the greatest amount of good & the least amount of harm? (Utilitarian); and Stage 4: What action best respects the rights and dignity of each person? (Rights—What will be fair to all concerned?)
  • Act consistently using your best judgment with the data/facts available.
  • Reflect on your decision. Be willing to adjust a decision as you obtain more data/facts and reactions of others.
  • Yield on your ethical judgments, these will govern your conduct and become your character.

The dilemmas presented in the Symposium were issues from actual school board records.  They included cheating, racial disparity, and violence in schools.

This generation of students has lived with principles of “duck and cover;” that is, how to conduct themselves when an “intruder” is in or near their school and their school is in “lock-down.”  This is evasive language which really means, if someone exhibits threatening (even life threatening—e.g. an armed person) behavior, drills are used to teach students and teachers what they each can do for protection.

The final dilemma of the day concerned a proposal to have teachers with a concealed carry license and annual additional mandatory training with local police to voluntarily carry guns to school.  Would this make schools safer or give students the perception of being safer?  In this exercise, each student was to put herself/himself in the role of a student representative on the school board and represent the student body.  After the discussion that included arguments for and against the proposal, the representative had to vote.  In the session that I attended, of the 18 students, the “student body” voted 17:1 to reject the proposal and maintain the current “no firearms” policy.  The trauma these students expressed, and continue to feel, about the gunfire they experienced has defined their high school education.  Eventually, the student who would initially vote to allow teachers to carry guns under these circumstances was willing to consider other safety measures that could be put in place instead of guns.  The value of this exercise, and all of the others throughout the Symposium, was that students felt safe in expressing their shift in thinking.  Many students shifted from their “gut-reaction” when they reported their final decision.

Teachers recognize that much of their own learning comes from their students.  This was certainly true at the Ethics Symposium.  By the end of the Symposium, students were asked their reaction.  Their experiences were wider than “this will be good on my college application” (which it undoubtedly would be) to the benefit of having their views validated.  They appreciated that the Symposium was not a lecture course, where they were told how they were to do something. They struggled with topics and had to engage in dynamic groups, sometimes with others from very different life experiences.  They appreciated the respect they received from offering different perspectives.

Some may accuse Rotary of impiety because these students were not entirely satisfied with the status quo.  If teaching these students how to think rather than what to think is corrupting the minds of youth—then we would certainly be guilty.  We came away with the satisfaction that these students feel they have obtained tools to help them practice ethical behavior.  Dan Mahoney, Counselor at Memorial High School, and a staunch supporter of the Rotary Interact Program, said that over the years, he has witnessed the value of the Ethics Symposium.  For students who attend, it has been life-changing (and for the good).