Public education is a family affair with the Masons. Both my wife, Roseann, and I graduated from UW-Parkside and later earned graduate degrees.
As Director of the Parkside’s Academic Resource Center, Roseann trained and supervised some fifty persons who mentored at-risk students. Academic support under her direction was more than basic remediation; it included the finer skills of fair judgment, respectful discussion, and productive persuasion. She taught English in Thailand and actively promoted Diversity Circles in the Kenosha-Racine area. She labored tirelessly to improve the quality of prison life in Racine so that rehabilitation might be more likely after release. She has always been convinced that education should develop good citizens ready to assume responsibility for all the people and resources of the planet, and to create what Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. called “our beloved community.” Roseann has a strong appreciation for diversity as a part of the American Dream. Now retired, she volunteers her efforts facilitating the Diversity Circles at Case High School.
My father, Cory II, grew up during the Great Depression, joined the Merchant Marines at age 15, served in Korea, and left to his children a strong heritage of service and respect for education. Having earned his GED in the army, one of his proudest opportunities was to finally take a single course at UW-Parkside. With that legacy and the inevitable father-son conversations about what really mattered, I determined to be a good father, a responsible member of my community, and to be of service to others.
Roseann and I share a driving zeal to support education, especially public education. The young people following us will be tasked with solving problems they have inherited from us, as well as dealing with the challenges coming with rapid advances in technology.
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Critical thinking, problem identification, evaluation, and consensus building have replaced the importance of memorized facts now easily found on the internet. Racine Unified has developed partnerships with knowledgeable business and technology professionals who supply recommendations to leverage technology and update the curriculum, and who offer career exploration and internships. I am excited to see the attention the Racine Unified leadership is giving to new teaching methods that resonate with today’s social media savvy students.
In America, some schools may foster religious, ethnic, or social preferences. Public schools have as their specific purpose to create a society without divisions of religion, ethnicity, or social class — people equipped with what is needed to pursue a livelihood, liberty, and happiness without apprehension or condescension toward people who are different from themselves. We wanted our children to enter their adult life with a sense of belonging and readiness to live in the real world with the attitudes and skills required to participate in governing themselves in a global community.
Early on in their young lives, we chose public schooling for our children. Cory IV, our eldest, discovered the way he would serve society through his International Baccalaureate studies at Case High School. He credits his participation in the Model OAS and Model UN simulations for whetting his desire to become a legislator. In those projects he worked with other students to research and author beneficial bills to be passed by the bodies of students representing member governments in the Organization of American States or United Nations. The students spent hours developing viable platforms and building coalitions to move legislation forward. Afterward, they evaluated and voted to select best policies, strategies, and delegates. What growth in leadership, teamwork and strategic planning! The adult Cory eventually became a member of Wisconsin’s State Assembly whose 62nd District includes most of Racine. He has advocated for quality of life legislation such as education, workers’ well-being, and women’s health issues as well as against the uncontrolled diversion of Lake Michigan water.
Our daughter Rosemary distinguished herself at Case High School and won the admiration of her teachers for unstoppable energy and singleness of purpose. One of her I.B. teachers, Tamerin Hayward, remarked that Rosemary seemed to store every piece of information she could learn as if sensing that she would one day have her own class to teach. She became an outstanding educator, loving and beloved by her third graders at Knapp and fourth graders at Schulte Schools, appreciated by their parents, and highly respected by her colleagues. She is conscious of the value of team effort as opposed to personal promotion, and she generously does her best to support fellow teachers. When it comes to service and giving back, Rosemary works consistently at the above the call of duty level.
Christopher excelled in the intense science coursework of the International Baccalaureate Program at Case High School. He gloried in hours of spirited conversations with gifted faculty as well as invaluable laboratory experience the UW-Madison. The excellent education he received at RUSD and UW-Madison prepared him well for his studies at Yale where he earned his Ph.D. in genomics. He is now a professor at Cornell University in the Department of Physiology and Biomedicine. Part of his work is to study genes as they influence neurological diseases and cancer. He served as a scientific expert for a case before the U.S. Supreme Court in 2013 that determined that the human genome rightfully belongs to the human race and the whole world, not to a specific company. He is currently working with NASA studying how the DNA of astronauts changes while spending extended periods of time in space.
All three, Cory, Rosemary, and Christopher, received an amazingly rich foundation in Racine Unified Schools for the career paths they selected. We could not be prouder or more grateful to the fine teachers they had. Racine’s public schools have given our children the education they needed to succeed and serve. We are equally proud that our children stayed close to the community that nurtured and educated them. Now that we have grandchildren in RUSD, we fervently hope that our community continues to value and support public education.
This column was written by Cory Mason III (on behalf of the Mason Family). It is part of a four-part column series submitted by the Racine Unified School District Volunteer Communication Sub-committee. This is the third column.