While the riots at the U.S. Capitol left many people aghast, Eric Brayden saw a learning opportunity.

Brayden, a government, economics and geography teacher at Capital High School, said last week’s assault on the Capitol, led by supporters of President Donald Trump, gave him an opportunity to tie some of the lessons he was teaching directly to a historic moment. But he said he sensed apprehension about the topic from some students in his government class — particularly from those who supported Trump during the election.

Not that he was surprised.

“Every time there is an event like this, especially one that is so visceral it makes students’ social media feeds, it’s not uncommon that there is not a lot of discussion at first in class,” Brayden said.

Eventually, hesitation gave way to discussion, and the overriding theme was disapproval. Brayden added many of his students distinguished how police reacted to last summer’s Black Lives Matter protests compared to the Capitol riot.

Brayden expressed pride in his students’ participation on such a sensitive matter.

“I am really proud of the students who felt they were safe enough to express those sorts of vulnerable feelings,” Brayden said. “That’s tough to do, sometimes.”

Many history, government and social studies teachers in Northern New Mexico have found a way to tie the riots into the curriculum they are teaching students throughout the year. The moment even led to the creation of a student forum by Joaquin Martinez, the chairman of Academy for Technology and the Classics’ history department, as he held a virtual discussion with a group of 35 students, teachers and administrators Monday.

Martinez said the goal was to help students better understand what Wednesday’s events meant, adding it’s important to educate them about how government works and arm them with the knowledge to discount some of the disinformation that he has seen.

“The goal of our forum is to teach them about the facts and how our Constitution works, and then allow them to express opinions that are based on those facts — not opinions that are presented as facts,” Martinez said.

Cadence Gonzales, a sophomore at ATC, told the audience she was surprised how many people attended the forum. She said she was doing a reading for a class while watching rioters invade the Senate chambers and the moment shook her.

“We saw democracy being attacked, we saw undemocratic processes in place with senators refuting the people’s choice,” Gonzales said. “The people’s vote is very sacred to our democracy, and when something becomes undemocratic, it becomes un-American.”

For Mandy Montoya, a history teacher at Peñasco Middle and High School, the lesson plan for her New Mexico history class Wednesday morning proved to be prescient. She discussed the Chimayó Rebellion in 1837, in which Northern New Mexicans revolted against Mexican Gov. Albino Pérez, and told her students such uprisings still happen today.

A few hours later, she had proof.

“It just shows that history kinda repeats itself,” Montoya said. “That was how we ended the class, and I hadn’t gotten any notifications and I still hadn’t seen the news. But then, I got a couple of notifications and I turned on the news after that.”

The following day, Montoya talked about the events in Washington during each of her classes, noting it wasn’t the first time the Capitol had been breached — the British attacked the building during the War of 1812. Her class watched some videos of the lockdown, President-elect Joe Biden’s response and how other countries viewed the insurrection.

“We talked about how it’s not something we haven’t seen before — just not by Americans,” Montoya said.

Will Rushing, an economy and government instructor at Monte del Sol Charter School, said it was important for him to present students with the facts from the incident and not necessarily present both sides of an argument. He said he was compelled to uphold the state’s content standards, and those are the values enshrined in the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution.

Rushing added he welcomes the exchange different viewpoints, but this wasn’t the time for that.

“Those [values] were so flagrantly violated [Wednesday] that it is the duty of educators to speak those truths — that the action of this president and the actions of this president’s apologists within other branches of government are unconscionable and inexcusable,” Rushing said. “We should not ‘both sides’ this.”

But Martinez said he found engaging students across the political spectrum in discussions during Trump’s presidency easy, in part because he used facts to help guide dialogue. He also said it was important to break through some of the political rhetoric that often dominates discussion.

“All I had to do was look at the Constitution, look at Supreme Court cases and place that as a litmus test against what this administration was doing,” Martinez said. “There were times when they were following the rule of law and we could say, ‘Maybe you can agree or disagree with this policy, but it was lawful.’ ”

Brayden said as encouraging as some of the classroom discussion was, he was equally excited by the responses he received from former students.

He was bombarded with text messages and emails as they expressed their opinions on what happened and looked to him for his view on the riot. It was an unusual position for Brayden, who said his goal is to facilitate conversation about a subject rather than give his take.

However, that students engaged him made Brayden hopeful he was achieving his mission.

“My goal is to help kids be engaged beyond just the time they’re in my class,” Brayden said. “I don’t know if satisfying is the word, but it was empowering to me that a good number of kids reached out to me and have been thinking critically about this.”

(18) comments

Molly Mix

Jim, I don’t care that you were a teacher—only mentioning that no one asked, but of course you shared.

I was referring to the democratic process of counting the electoral votes.

Not going to bother reading your rant but to address the last question: security was sparse and overwhelmed. There are plenty of videos of violence during the incident, both toward the idiots and toward police. You’re purposefully divisive.

Jim Klukkert

Ah sad, Molly, that your deflect from my question on white skin privilege, but of course you are one who revels in that privilege, ¿que no?

Obviously you did read what you falsely label as a 'rant,' pero

¡hasta la victoria siempre!

Molly Mix

I just don’t invest time in conspiracy theories, and the concept of white privilege is just that. Wow, Spanish!

Jim Klukkert

The privileged often find it most co0nvient to deny that very priviledge.

Wow, невежество!

Jim Klukkert

Miserable stuff, but in case we need to remember the depths to which these fascist thugs will descend:


John Martinez

As a parent of a Capital High Student, I do not condone what Mr. Martinez is doing with these teachings. He says he is teaching especially to Trump supporters on what happened at the Capitol. But Sir you do not have the right to push your political views onto our children and make it sound that thsi event had no history behind it. You do not have the right to say that this was a horrible event (which it was) but not the ANTIFA, BLM riots that have plagued this country leaving many dead among 3o plus police officers. I will be speaking to Admin at CHS about this, and I hope you all do the same!!!

Annie Oakley

The following quote was in a previous SFNM article stating that NM schools are at the bottom of the educational barrel.

Margaret Mead wrote, “Children must be taught how to think, not what to think.”

If only this was common practice in our country ~ from Kindergarten to University. Instead, we indoctrinate our young people and tell them what to think and what to believe - rewriting history along the way. Young minds are being tarnished and brainwashed......

And, I hope that he has given equal time talking about the terrorist groups such as BLM and Antifa and all of the damage, death and destruction they have caused with many people believing that it was all about "peaceful protesting" because that's what they've been told by the leftist coalition including Kamala Harris who said they should keep terrorizing cities until they get what they want ~ why were people not up in arms when she said that ~ oh wait, this is Santa Fe!

Jim Klukkert

Ms. Oakley– Anyone who loves and knows history understands that history is constantly revised as we come to a better understanding of our past. This is very similar to the sciences, which are constantly re-evaluating what we know, and what is no longer credible.

For example, women were once regarded as too "hysterical," yes that was the exact word used in the past, to be trusted with ownership of property or the right to vote. We revised our views, and re-wrote much history, as we came to a better understanding of the capabilities of women.

I do not believe that we are indoctrinating, tarnishing nor brainwashing children when we present an honest and candid history of America, warts and all.

That you call BLM and Antifa "terrorist groups' guilty of "all of the damage, death and destruction" betrays a lack of balanced history and contemporary media, as well as a studied ignorance. I laugh at the Alt-Right when they call Kamala Harris and others "leftists' or "radicals." In Europe, such figures would be seen as moderate centrists on that political spectrum.

I am sure I am unlikely to convince you of much Ms. Oakley, but in my travels of early last year, and converstions and reading of the last few years, I see that the times, they are a-changing.

Jim Klukkert

Mr. Martinez: On Jan 2, 2021, at 2:25pm you wrote "Militarism should be glorified, these military men and women are heroes who keep us free and a safe community."

I believe that communication and peace making skills are better suited for high school students, as well as a comprehensive study of history. Given your sad misunderstanding of recent history ["ANTIFA, BLM riots that have plagued this country leaving many dead..."] I would welcome you as a guest speaker, but your militarist attitudes are no longer welcome in our schools.

You are sadly mistaken in believing that the teacher Martinez "make[s] it sound that thsi event had no history behind it." It is that very history that inevitably led to this sad event, and I am sure that Martinez is well aware of that.

Your studied ignorance, however, is a matter of concern.

Molly Mix

Lol the amount of time you spend wailing at people on the local newspaper’s comment section might be a matter of concern

Jim Klukkert

Mollu all Mixed up– that you get your jollies posting such boring drivel is between you and your therapist I would supposed....

Molly Mix

People like Will Rushing (who’s Twitter account reads: “ Educator, Transplanted New Mexican, Star Wars guy, Proud Anti-fascist [since that’s a thing we have to say now,] lifetime member of the #Resistance) are a prime example of what’s WRONG with our education system. Anyone who publicly admits they refuse to approach a topic in a dynamic way isn’t teaching—they’re projecting their (extreme) political views on children. Left, right, center, or sideways this is wrong.

Jim Klukkert

Molly Mix- I fail to see that Mr. Rushing is not teaching in what you call a 'dynamic way,' and do not understand how you can leap to the conclusion that any projection of views, much less extreme political views on children or anyone else.

I would hope that any long view lesson plans on the sedition of last week fully explores the roots of that insurrection, going back to Nixon's Southern Strategy of appealing to white racism; the disaffection of the white working class that led to Reagan Democrats, and further back, the electoral crisis of 1876 which led to the defeat of Reconstruction and the victory of racism as enshrined in Jim Crow rule.

Yes I was a teacher, and when we taught middle-school kids about Apartheid, we fully engaged the history of the Afrikaners, who instituted that racist system. By understanding the Afrikaners as human beings, we all came away with a better understanding of those difficult times.

I would hope that all our students are in dynamic environments where free, civil and spirited discussions can happen. Sounds like that is happening in all of these schools.

Carlos Vasquez


Molly Mix

Jim, no one asked if you were a teacher :D Anyway, why does this have to go back to racism? Teachers should focus on fact—that people committed a horrible crime, then by our great American system the democratic process was able to resume soon after. Free and spirited discussion amongst students is exactly what should be happening in the classroom. I’m only expressing doubts that some of our educators have the humility to step back and remain mere facilitators.

Craig Meyer

Race has to be discussed because it's the root cause of the seditious expedition into the capitol. The desire to divorce the race discussion is misleading to the extreme. The overarching cause of these self-described "patriots" is racial resentment stoked and fueled by our white supremacist President. I'm sure you and your fellow travelers would like to see it swept under the rug but it must be included in any discussion.

Jim Klukkert

Well Molly Mix- we are off to a bad start if you are unhappy that I was a teacher.

All of American history goes back to racism. Horrible crimes were committed, but I missed the event or period where "our [supposedly] great American system the democratic process was able to resume soon after." When was that, Ms. Mix?

After the Civil War, attacks on African Americans never ceased, and accelerated following the roll back of Reconstruction brought on by the electoral crisis of 1876. The KKK roared back to life in the early 1900's, lynchings became common, and the terrorism continued.

Perhaps you have never heard of what went down in Wilmington, NC, or the Tulsa/Black Wall Street Massacre of 1921, where US Army airplanes were used to fire bomb a once prosperous African-American neighborhood? Perhaps you are too young to remember the deaths of four young African-American children in the KKK bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama in 1963. 19 Sticks of dynamite!

Though the mass assaults of yesteryear have greatly subsided, the 'non-white' parents of every male teenager make it their business to have 'the talk' with their son, in the hope that a simple trip out for candy or pizza does not turn to tragedy, as it did for Trayvon Martin in 2013, or similarly for other African Americans, twice in December 2020 in Columbus, Ohio. And the death toll keep rising.

Though you write that you are "only expressing doubts," I have grown very weary of the naivety of so many white people. Many white people profess ignorance as to their own privilege relative to people of color, and ignorance as to the fear and oppression with which so many people of color contend daily.

I have one question Ms. Mix: If the crowd that overwhelmed our Capitol had been a mixed race group like the groups that rallied in the cause of Black Lives Matter, what reaction from armed State agents would have met them?

I think a realistic answer well illustrates the white skin privilege prevalent in America.

Donato Velasco

lots more to the story that started 6 years ago.. but has been going on for far more time. open dialog is good just have to stay neutral and stay tot he facts not opinions..

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