For anyone still wondering why many people today say we need more women in government, the Bryan County Federation of Democratic Women’s special event, “Cookies, Conversation, and Concerns,” gave a powerful answer.
Four Oklahoma women came together Saturday, September 21, at the Donald W. Reynolds Community Center and Library to discuss some of the issues facing women in 2013. And the discussion showed clearly that women’s issues are all our issues. All four of these women are outstanding community leaders.
Dr. Katherine Scheirman, Director, Doctors for America, Oklahoma Office
Dr. Scheirman framed her comments with a brief explanation of why she joined the Air Force. After receiving her medical degree, she first went into private practice, but found the healthcare system so “messed up” by a hodge-podge of rules and regulations from insurance companies, government programs, and hospitals that often she had difficulty doing her job. Frustrated, she joined the Air Force and was able to give her patients what they needed.
Although she spent 20 years in the Air Force, rising to the rank of Colonel, all along she planned to return to private practice inspired by the belief that, “after 20 years, things would be fixed.”
“Guess what?” she asked. “They weren’t.”
Now, back in private practice and serving as Director of the Oklahoma office of “Doctors for America,” she is a strong supporter of Obamacare as “the fix.” She also observed that Governor Mary Fallin’s opting out of the Federal expansion of Medicaid will be “devastating” to rural areas because the rural healthcare system is disproportionately dependent on Medicaid.
Representative Emily Virgin, Oklahoma House District 4
Representative Virgin also commented on women’s healthcare as well as military retirement and women’s inadequate representation in the Oklahoma Legislature. Much of her talk directly addressed the topic of the advantages that women bring to government. Acknowledging at the outset that there are, of course, many male legislators who possess the qualities, she listed five qualities at which she believes women in general excel: (1) Most women legislators are more willing to compromise, (2) They are not so driven by the need to take credit for “everything,” (3) They more often “reach across the aisle to see what we have in common,” (4) Women have a sharper “perspective on public school education,” if for no other reason than that the majority of teachers are women, and (5) Women legislators overall show a better understanding of others and their needs.
Superintendent Donna Anderson, Bennington Independent School District
Soon after Virgin made her fifth point about women’s understanding, Donna Anderson came on as living proof. And she immediately hit the target in the discussion of what is wrong with elementary and secondary education in the state at this time: It is not carefully based on the principle of being “developmentally correct.” Educational decisions are too strongly directed by politics instead.
As an example, Anderson dissected the much talked-about “Common Core.” The problem, she explained persuasively, is that students will be tested on “Common Core” standards that are “not taught correctly” according to research on children’s mental development. And teachers do not teach the standards correctly because they have not been trained how to teach the standards correctly.
She pointed out that a senior can have good grades, a high SAT (Scholastic Aptitude Test) score, pass most of the “Common Core” tests, but fail one, and be denied a diploma.
In her conclusion, Anderson echoed Virgin’s beliefs in women’s advantages when she summarized her take on the job of Superintendent of Public Instruction: “We’ve got a problem. Let’s come together. Let’s fix it.”
District Attorney Emily Redman, Atoka, Bryan, Coal counties
Emily Redman told a real-life story that well illustrated many of the issues discussed during the afternoon. It was the story of a case she had prosecuted, the story of an 11-year-old Bennington girl, Sarah (not her real name).
Redman first met Sarah after a phone call from Sarah’s grandmother. Sarah, 11 years old at the time, lived in a remote rural area with her mother, her brother, and her mother’s boyfriend, Bob (not his real name). Sarah’s brother slept in a car, and Sarah, her mother, and Bob slept in house trailer.
Sarah’s grandmother called law enforcement because it worried her that Sarah talked knowingly about manufacturing methamphetamine using the drug lingo with facility. Investigation revealed that Bob and Sarah’s mother were addicts and manufacturers, Sarah had been manufacturing and using since she was 7 years old, and Bob had been sexually molesting her from the beginning.
Eleven-year-old Sarah was removed from the home, placed in a foster home, and struggled through almost 5 years it took to convict Bob and her mother. Sarah enrolled in Drug Court, but flunked out, and, along with the rest of her family, went to prison, leaving her own two children behind.
“Services for young children are failing,” Redman concluded: Education, child welfare, healthcare, and mental-health services, to name the most obvious.
BCFDW President, Mary Katherine Hodge, chaired the meeting. The planning committee for “Cookies, Conversation, and Concerns” was headed by Charline Eblen, former BCFDW President and current Second Vice-President of the Oklahoma Federation of Democratic Women. Other members were Celia Gordon, Wyota Hannan, Linda Potts, Barbara Nicholson, and Charlotte Young. The meeting was free and open to the public. BCFDW meets monthly on the third Tuesday at noon at Sports City Café. For information, call Hodge at 1-580-296-2913.