Letter: Candidates, learn the issues before addressing them


My husband and I attended the Whidbey Island Fair last weekend in Langley. We enjoyed the sights, sounds, displays and exhibits. What a treat to see so many happy faces and hear joyful, laughing and conversation. We’re really glad we went.

We stopped at one booth featuring candidates for the three school districts on Whidbey Island. One candidate was present and shared with us her perspectives — lots of love for and concern for the children and real anxiety over the “direction of education today.” She stated, ‘The schools need to reopen and to focus on the basics.” We asked questions. She told us that all these candidates were very upset about the agenda being pushed on children, specifically teaching Critical Race Theory and mandatory sex education.

Apparently, these parental fears began when the children attended school at home during the COVID year.

I was impressed by her concern for children and her interest in being involved. I am also troubled that she didn’t know much about the topics she was talking about. As I listened, it was clear to me that she couldn’t explain Critical Race Theory, didn’t know where it came from and didn’t understand its core message.

It was equally clear to me that she had not read State Senate Bill 5395 — all four pages of it — nor the grade level learning standards. Passionate fears were based in something other than the law itself. Sadly, lack of knowledge of what the law actually says did not stop accusations about what the law required.

Where do these talking points and inaccurate assumptions come from?

I was sad when I left the booth. These candidates mean well and love children. However, I’m really concerned about what this lack of understanding could mean on local school boards.

Our school boards help set policy that affects the whole community. School board members must be knowledgeable about issues. At a minimum, they need to read the laws they want to challenge. They need to understand the basics of theories and concepts relevant to good education. And they need to learn from primary source materials before they go public with their criticisms.

It’s fine to disagree; healthy disagreement and respectful conversation can move us toward better solutions. Honorable criticism begins with actual knowledge.

It takes about a half hour to read the Wikipedia overview of Critical Race Theory. It would take even less time to read state Senate Bill 5395. Isn’t that time a worthwhile investment for our children and community?

I invite every school board candidate to learn about the issues. Read primary source documents whenever possible. Do that during your candidacy. At least know what you’re talking about.

Both your own credibility and the relevance of public conversation on the topics will improve.

Elizabeth Guss