Justin Schatz is The Paper's daily news reporter. He has reported on New Mexico for KRQE News, Searchlight NM and the Santa Fe Reporter.

On Friday New Mexicans weighed in on New Mexico Public Education Department’s proposal to reform the state’s current social studies curriculum. The proposed changes would expand perspectives in which New Mexico’s history is taught. The PED hosted an online forum that was open to the public to express their support or concerns for the proposed changes, which drew polarizing remarks similar to the rest of the nation.

The New Mexico Black Leadership Council expressed its support for the proposed changes. “The movement to repeal the current proposed social studies standards based on the concern that there is a bias toward racial, progressive and/or liberal themes is a political strategy that works to uphold a standard of whiteness and ignorance in the accurate telling of American history. Our students deserve to have a curriculum that is reflective of their racial, ethnic and gender backgrounds and should be provided the information and history of how the experiences of Black/African American, Indigenous, People of Color, Women and LGBTQIA groups have been marginalized throughout the course of our history. This is not indoctrination, this is inclusivity. The movement to dilute, erase or retell the history of discrimination in this country is a powerful example of why we need a social studies curriculum that explores the systemic oppression of marginalized groups. Our children and our students deserve to be taught accurate history in order to become Americans who understand the injustices of our past. We hope this will lead to correcting any future injustices through education, action and participation in a way that will address systemic racism and prejudice,” they said in an official statement.

Despite no mention of Critical Race Theory in the proposed curriculum, many parents expressed concerns and fear over their autonomy as a parent in their children’s education. Social conservatives are especially outraged over what they perceive as an attack on their religious beliefs. Valerie Fox, a concerned parent, commented “Introducing LGBTQ to children is tantamount to child sexual exploitation and solicitation. It doesn’t take physical contact for it to be a crime, and quite frankly, what you’re doing is criminal. It’s not appropriate. These are our children, not yours.
 We have a right to bring them up in the way that we see fit, and it is not appropriate for you to be introducing sexual lifestyles to children. I don’t know if it’s going to take parents filing police reports or lawsuits to stop this in school, but I plan on being a part of that if my rights as a parent are violated when it comes to my child. And I’ve already notified impact of that in writing.”

Despite fears over the inclusion of Critical Race Theory and “progressive ideals,” many parents and educators expressed their support for the proposed changes. Rayallen Smith, an educator, came out in support of the changes. “This curriculum encourages active civic participation, which is important to a vibrant vibrant democracy. Active civic participation means voting, being informed on local issues and impacting you and your neighbors and taking informed action to support your community. This curriculum supports these concepts. The curriculum teaches inquiry, which enables children to learn how to identify bias in media, how the use of critical thinking and how to analyze inequities among people and the impact
 of diverse ideologies. These are all basics for informed citizens in our democracy.”

New Mexico’s social study curriculum has not been updated since before 9/11. This means that both teachers and students have not had the training or space to discuss events such as 9/11, the war on terror, COVID and other pivotal events in the last 20 years.

Critical Race Theory has been central to the opposition in education nationally over the last few months, even if though is not mentioned and has been explicitly not included in the new curriculum. Friday’s hearing also saw a push to extend public comment for another six months and a push to include personal finance into the new curriculum.

In the wake of criticism this past month, PED said that the new standards, if passed, will not be implemented until the fall of 2023.

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Justin Schatz is The Paper's daily news reporter. He has reported on New Mexico for KRQE News, Searchlight NM and the Santa Fe Reporter.