State Rep. Chuck Basye, R-Rocheport, has made it his mission to find evidence of critical race theory in Columbia public schools.
The four school board candidates were asked what CPS students should learn about the roles of race, racial discrimination and slavery in shaping our country.
They also addressed the issue of banned books in schools in other parts of the country.
School district voters will choose two of the four for three-year terms on the board.
“It’s important for students to learn about history from different angles,” Willoughby said.
Growing up in the South, he said he benefited from visiting Tuskegee University and learning about the Tuskegee experiments that studied the progression of syphilis in black men without providing them with treatment. He also discovered the Tuskegee Airmen, black fighter pilots during World War II.
He crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge and visited other landmarks in the civil rights struggle, he said.
There are bills in the legislature that would prevent students from accessing the educational opportunities he has received, he said.
The idea of the books being banned from schools anywhere worries him as the son of a man who died in the Iraq war, he said.
“It’s a slap in the face for me” and a personal affront to his father, he said.
There should be no censorship, he said.
“Students should have the freedom to learn every bit of history,” Waters said. “We can do this without invoking shame.”
History should be taught in an age-appropriate way, she said.
As for banned books, she said she studied how books are chosen and approved for schools.
“They know what they’re doing,” Waters said of educators in the process.
Parents can request that their child not be allowed to read individual books, she said.
She’s glad books aren’t banned here, she says.
“I think it’s a really sad phenomenon,” she said of the banned books.
“I think we have to be honest about American history,” Lisenby said. “There is no reason to hide anything.”
As for Basye’s claims, she said no one has defined critical race theory to her satisfaction.
Until there’s an agreed definition, there’s no reason to have a conversation about it, she said.
“I think I’d like to trust our teachers and educators” on the books chosen for school buildings, Lisenby said.
It’s extremely important for students to learn all of American history, including areas where the country has failed, Burks said.
Students should learn critical thinking skills and do independent research, he said.
It’s not worth school officials disagreeing with Basye, he said.
“We need legislative support to have a well-functioning school system,” Burks said.
The current process for checking books in school buildings is working, Burks said.
“As a member of the school board, it is not my responsibility” to decide which books belong in the buildings, he said. “We have excellent educators who know what needs to be there.”
His role as a school board member would be to provide direction to the superintendent, develop policy and provide funding authority, he said.
Roger McKinney is the Tribune’s educational reporter. You can reach him at [email protected] or 573-815-1719. He’s on Twitter at @rmckinney9.