Lia Brodnix and her daughter Kathleen, a freshman at Los Alamos High School, stood on the sidelines as Republican politicians and families rallied in downtown Santa Fe against the state’s proposed new social studies standards for K-12 public schools.

Some rallygoers, who had gathered at the headquarters of the New Mexico Public Education Department, said they feared the overhauled standards — the first update in a decade — would lead to loss of local control in education. Many reiterated the term “critical race theory,” a concept in higher education that explores the role of race in the U.S. legal system.

The draft standards make no mention of critical race theory, and several people who spoke at the rally acknowledged this. But they used it to describe how the standards — updated to include modern historical events, LGBTQ history, Native American history and civics — would require teachers to address gender, sexuality and race, using words like “equity” and “oppression.” They aim to keep this kind of talk out of classrooms.

Kathleen voiced her view of the proposed standards overhaul in simpler terms: “I hate it. It disgusts me,” she said.

In her eyes, her social studies classes are already “anti-conquistador.”

While some parents who’ve spoken out against the draft standards have said they’ll remove their kids from public school if the changes are implemented, Brodnix said her daughter likely would stay at Los Alamos High.

Friday’s rally, hosted by the Republican Party of New Mexico, came ahead of an hourslong virtual public hearing on the controversial proposal, when people were able to provide comment. Friday also was the deadline to submit written comments to the Public Education Department.

While advocates for the new standards applaud the way they call on students to voice their own identities and deepen their knowledge of Indigenous history, people like Ethel Maharg, a Republican gubernatorial candidate and director of the New Mexico Right to Life Committee, beg to differ.

Maharg, one of three GOP contenders in the governor’s race who spoke Friday, said when she was a math teacher in Cuba, she “didn’t allow the students to talk about different races.”

She called for a concentration on teaching students about the state and U.S. constitutions and urged more local school board control over what is taught.

Maharg and others at the rally pointed to political fights across the U.S. over how race and gender should be addressed in schools. Some referred to the recent triumph of Republican newcomer Glenn Youngkin, who defeated Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, a Democrat, in an election for the state’s top job earlier this month. A few political pundits have said the social studies debate weighed heavily in the race.

“Folks, it happened in Virginia,” Maharg said. “Our future is in the ballots right now.”

Karen Bedonie, another GOP candidate in the governor’s race and a member of the Navajo Nation, lumped the state Public Education Department’s effort to revise social studies standards in a category with gun control, carbon emission caps and vaccine mandates: “There are four markers when they start to overtake a people,” she said.

Earlier this week, all 24 members of the state House Republican Caucus signed a letter to Public Education Department Policy Director John Sena stating “strong opposition” to the proposed standards and calling for a public comment period extension to July 2022.

The lawmakers also requested formal hearings in the Legislature and said social studies education should focus on how existing government structures work to fulfill American ideals. Their letter said the “free-enterprise” system has resulted in “a standard of living that is the envy of people across the globe and which provides a beacon of economic opportunity for all.”

Under the draft social studies standards, they argued, students would be taught that socialism should replace capitalism.

The buzz over social studies standards reminiscent of controversy that erupted in 2017 when the administration of Republican Gov. Susana Martinez was planning changes to science standards. The modifications would have included scaling back or eliminating mentions of evolution and human causes of climate change. There would have been no mention of the Earth’s age.

That proposal spurred outrage across the state and throughout the nation.

Eventually, however, the education department pivoted to fully adopting the Next Generation Science Standards, used by numerous states.

“[There was] a lot of discussion and a lot of debate,” Lt. Gov Howie Morales said of the science standards uproar in a recent interview. “That has kind of quieted down. And that’s going to happen with the social studies standards once it’s understood that it’s not a political issue.”

Morales calls the social studies standards update an education issue of pressing importance as the state works to bring more “cultural competency” to classrooms under a 2018 ruling in the landmark Yazzie/Martinez lawsuit that found the state was failing to provide an adequate education to several groups of students, including Native Americans.

Still, lawmakers like state Rep. Rebecca Dow, R-Truth or Consequences, a gubernatorial candidate, are calling for legislation that would limit how teachers discuss gender and race in the classroom.

Would such a bill make it to the governor’s desk for her signature?

“I don’t see any likelihood of that taking place,” Morales said.

(32) comments

Chris Mechels

It would be of more use for them to study NM Government Corruption and the role of the Trifectaa. All our problems trace to this corruption, which is ignored at our peril. We rank LAST in the nation, for good reason. THAT, not issues of sexual identity, will determine the fate of our state. Don't be distracted by the noise. The REAL issue in NM is government corruption and Malfeasance. Or perhaps they could study why a Governor who does "crotch grabs" is still in office.

Notta Ray Cist

You kinda glossed over all of the OVERT racism, homophobic, anti-trans, revisionist history they were all championing. The woman you decided to use as the cover photo is a racist, anti-semitic POS from Rio Rancho... good job as always SFNM

Lynn Hansz

Notta...go got that right!


Please don't indoctrinate children to this garbage. How about more Math and Sciences?

David Romero

Teach History and Social Studies the way things actually happened. No bias towards any one group.

Lynn Hansz

Yes! David that is all Americans need and want.

Russell Scanlon

This what the GOP does. They can only win by using divisive wedge issues and appealing to the worst instincts and fears of their rapidly shrinking base of angry white people. During the worst days of the Iraq war in 2004 Karl Rove convinced a lot of Evangelicals that the most serious issue in our country was gay marriage. Today gay marriage is the law of the land. Why does anyone care if people who love each other want to get married? They don’t. It’s just a useful wedge issue exactly like CRT is today.

What has the GOP offered to help struggling families, reduce student debt, provide health care options, fight the pandemic, or rebuild infrastructure. Nada. Zip. Zilch. Just knee jerk resistance to anything that the “libs” propose.

On every serious issue of our time, the “policies” of the post-Trump GOP are a recipe for disaster, failure, and more division and rancor. And I ain’t giving the Dems in this state a free pass either. . .

Lynn Hansz

Carl Rove is history and an idiot. Todays Republicans are not even close to the old guard. And by the way, I am not white and I am not racist.

To rephrase slightly...what have the far left Democrats actually DONE to help struggling families, reduce student debt, provide health care options, fight the pandemic, or rebuild infrastructure. Nada. Zip. Zilch. Just knee jerk resistance to anything that Conservatives try to offer but are always blocked when they try.

Russell Scanlon

Well I’m flattered you would copy my prose—but if you bothered to check recent history in the last year or so you would see it is the GOP (with considerable assistance from “moderate” Dems) that have blocked healthcare reform, climate change legislation, mask and vaccine mandates, student loan relief, etc. etc. and have even resisted the infrastructure bills. The only thing they seem to be good at is lowering taxes for their super rich buddies.

But in spite of your rather obtuse reading of reality you are right about one thing. The Republicans of today are WAY more crazy the they were in days of GW Bush. Just ask. . . GW Bush.

Jim Klukkert

Lynn Hansz- you may not be white, nor a racist, but you sure do not know your history.

It was the Black Panther Party that first launched a Free Breakfast Program so that kids would be fed at least once a day, and ready to think about their lessons. Free Clinics were founded and run successfully be the BPP and other organizations on the Left, as well as Remedial Reading and other Literacy and Education programs. These programs later were the models as the Democratic Party began, in part, to again address the needs of lower income communities.

If we went further back in history, the end of child labor, the forty hour work week, the spread of public education, health programs such as Medicare and Medicaid and even a socialized retirement program, Social Security, owe their start to organizations on the Left and, to a limited extent, to the liberal wing of the Democratic Party.

You certainly have not retained, or originally did not have much, education. I hope you will pay closer attention now, and cease insulting the Left, the folks on the ground making the world a better place.

One more thing: I believe you are referring to the infamous Republican political consultant in your post, whose name is spelled Karl Rove, like Karl Marx, the author of

the Communist Manifesto. Karl Rove is perhaps best known for his attacks on US veterans, including former POW John McCain and triple amputee Max Cleland. It is no surprise that you want to put a lot of distance between today's conservatives and Karl Rove.

Unfortunately for you, others value learning rather than erasing history, as fundamental to making better decisions.

Lupe Molina

Republicans. Always talking about freedom but the GOP gubernatorial candidate wants to pass a law limiting discussion on race and gender? These people don't even know what their ideology is anymore.

Emily Koyama

You're free to yak about it all you want, like you do here. Or get a banner and park yourself at St Francis Drive and Cerrillos and have at it.

Parents have the freedom to teach their kids all this stuff at home 135 hours a week of non-school time.

The problem is, many parents believe (correctly, in my opinion) that this curriculum will be bastardized in the classrooms in order to indoctrinate young minds to a liberal mindset, regardless of assurances from proponents that such "molding of the minds" will not happen.

It's already happening in schools across the country, and that's without mandated curriculums.

Russell Scanlon

“Indoctrinate young minds to a liberal mindset” . . Wow. There’s a whole lot of hubris going on there.

Emily Koyama

Um, it very real, Mr Ostrich.

Lynn Hansz

Indoctrinate, not educate. Yes there is hubris going on and it originates from the far left ideology which seeks to divide us into races and colors of skin.

Angel Ortiz

What an outstanding response. Yes, let's erase the past and embrace the ideals of the new GOP. Brilliant!

Emily Koyama

The "erasers of the past" are your buddies, tearing down Plaza obelisks and statues of Washington and Lincoln.

Angel Ortiz

Emily. OMG. Really??

Charlotte Rowe

Emily you epitomize Republican cowardice and whataboutism. Fear of knowledge only makes you embrace stupidity and you people are so desperate to prevent children from learning a balanced presentation of historic facts that you'll clutch at any narrative to try and prevent your superiors from learning about societal injustices that you approve of.

Emily Koyama

No Charlotte, not fearful at all... teach your kids anything you want...brainwash them all you want....we don't mind....I'm sure they will turn out "well adjusted".

Lupe Molina

Nah, the history you learned was just wrong and now you're being a snowflake about it.

Lynn Hansz

Charlotte and Lupe you should have coffee together and try to become less hateful toward others.

Russell Scanlon

Emily why are you so afraid of people learning the truth and making their own decisions about our history? Ruby Bridges, Emmitt Till, Medger Evers, Selma, Birmingham, Tulsa, Rosa Parks, Jim Crow etc. etc.—these are real people, real places, and real events. Who is the ostrich? Who is the snowflake?

Emily Koyama

It's not afraid, more worried's just that not all parents are on board with that being done in the public schools. I have no doubt it will be twisted to single out certain groups for criticism, which will create division in schools, which will, of course, carry over into later life.

Those of you pushing for this are actually the "snowflakes" , because you want to create victim classes, at a time when the country is already divided right down the middle and people need to be brought together on common ground, not told how cruel one group of people was (or is).

Parents that want this stuff taught to their kids can freely teach it themselves , or point them to terabytes of learning sources on the Internet, etc.

Why shouldn't these parents have a say in what their kids are taught in school?

Labeling them all as a bunch of racists is just your standard "go to".

Creating separate groups of victims and perpetrators is exactly what you want because it enables you to push for more control over certain groups of people based on skin color, ethnicity, or how their ancestors behaved.

Russell Scanlon

Emily—you have absolutely no faith in young people to read history and make their own decisions. There are brutal, violent aspects of our history, particularly with regard to race, that are undeniable. That is not to say that there are not other moments in our history that are inspiring and admirable. I suspect what you really want is to ignore the unpleasantness because it makes you uncomfortable.

And I’m sorry—that last paragraph and all the stuff about “victim classes” is just pure psychobabble. WE are not the ones who need a disingenuous lecture about “divisiveness” When Obama campaigned on “Hope and Change” he was mocked mercilessly by the GOP. What did Trump campaign on? “Build a Wall.”

Lynn Hansz

Exactly Emily...and we need to keep trying to change minds without rioting and denigration.

Russell Scanlon

Jan 6th is a good example of how y’all try to change minds.

Jim Klukkert

Ms. Koyama– I asked you recently if you knew of the importance of Black Wall Street, Oklahoma; Thule Lake, California; Sand Creek, Colorado; or Porvenir, Texas? I never heard back, perhaps you overlooked my question.

Perhaps I can make my multiple choice question easier for you by expanding the above list. In your high school education, or college for that matter, did you ever hear about the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory of New York City; Ludlow, Colorado; or the names of Emmet Till, James Chaney, or Medgar Evers?

If not, Ms. Koyama, your education is INCOMPLETE.

Beware the dangers of Studied Ignorance, and take care of calling anyone Mr. Ostrich.

Thanks, Emily!

Richard Reinders

The article seems to show this as a Republican / Democrat divide issue I am a Democrat and I oppose it, and for losing local control that happened already. check out Moms for Liberty.

Charlotte Rowe

You are not.

Angel Ortiz

Seriously? A sign of the times. Ludicrous at best. Very tragic that people actually support this. Blah!

Charlotte Rowe

It is tragic that people support the suppression of balanced history and teaching about societal shortcomings. I agree. But there are a lot of cowards out there.

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