What students learn in public schools should undergo thoughtful change as time passes. That’s why standards are updated. It’s a process happening right now in New Mexico with the curriculum used to teach social studies.

But what should be a relatively smooth process for modernizing content in an important subject area has become the latest educational tempest.

A push to add diversity and depth to social studies classes — which teach young people about their history and their government — has provoked outrage in some locales throughout the country. There’s no mystery to this so-called controversy: Some have a vested interest in keeping the pot stirred, and social studies standards are the place to get people worked up as agitators claim public schools will be teaching critical race theory.

Never mind that not 1 in 100 people actually can define critical race theory — a concept developed for advanced classes in graduate school and not K-12 classrooms.

What irks critics of new social studies standards is they may frame U.S. history as it actually happened. This nation’s past is not always mom and apple pie. Its government has at times enacted racist laws, enslaved Blacks, stolen land from Native tribes, and built systems that for many years, and perhaps even today, favored whites.

That’s simply history. That’s simply fact. We are a complex nation with an inspiring past — and yet, one that has seen its share of difficulties we have yet to fully resolve. Addressing that reality in a forthright manner will help create a better future.

That is not teaching critical race theory. That is education.

Starting in July 2020, educators from across New Mexico began meeting to look at how history was being taught and what updates needed to be included. They reviewed current social studies curriculum as well as best practices from the classroom, eventually writing the revised standards.

The standards cover such classes as social studies in K-12, as well as high school classes in civics, geography, economics, New Mexico history, world history, U.S. history and ethnic studies.

There’s a lot to absorb. Now the public can begin speaking out, whether sending comments via email, a letter or by attending the public hearing Nov. 12 in Santa Fe.

Before the noise gets too loud, learn what is in the standards. There’s a campaign to oppose them already in play; the Republican Party has sent emails claiming the standards “are nothing less than implementing revisionist history into New Mexico schools.”

That’s not what we read in the 122-page document. We particularly like the emphasis on critical thinking throughout the standards, teaching how to distinguish between fact and opinion, and encouraging children to ask questions and form conclusions. Those skills are necessary to keep democracy functioning.

In other states, discussions over how social studies should be taught have devolved into ugly confrontations that are unwelcome in New Mexico.

We can do better. Read the standards, speak up for the teaching of history, suggest changes — but do not allow extremists to dilute the teaching of history for the children of New Mexico.

(11) comments

Jim Klukkert

This one headline from WaPo says it all regarding letting parents chose the historical narrative in schools: More mermaids than congresswomen, more Confederates than abolitionists. Monuments study: American women rarely memorialized.

Far better to teach many viewpoints, and the best is to teach an approach to history, a way to investigate and explore the past.

Or we can let loose parents on the teaching of science, math and language arts.

Joe Brownrigg

All good "history" is aimed at solving a problem or answering a question. It is not partisan. But neither is it neutral. It is aimed at solving the problem, answering the question.

I'd suggest a major question for the "history" of New Mexico whould be: "How can a diverse dulture get along in a posibitve, constructive way? How can all these good vegetables of life intermingle, enjoying the taste of each?" ANY omissions would be a sin. ANY homogenization would be tragic.

Francisco Carbajal

Back in the day, I remember a few well-educated and respected Chicano Community Leader's from all over the State of New Mexico were pushing for the adoption of a textbook called "500 Anos Del Pueblo Chicano - 500 Years of Chicano History in our elementary, middle-school, and high-schools. Yet, the NM Public School of Education Curriculum Committee ignored and claimed the contents of this textbook was giving a false narrative and history for New Mexico. Seriously, if one was to conduct a demographic research study on race, ethnicity, and nationality background of the indigenous cultures of New Mexico and the Southwest, this type of perspective and cultural history of the Chicano(a) community is one of many diverse communities still in existence and we are not going anywhere for a long time. So, who is going to teach me about the core elements of what critical race theory. As far as upgrading the Social Studies Standards for New Mexico, the New Mexico State Legislature and the New Mexico PED need to educate themselves about New Mexico History and it's contribution from all cultural angles and boundaries (e.g., NM Land Grants, NM Acequias, NM Indian Nations, NM Indigenous Languages, NM Art and Culture, NM Water-Rights, NM Indigenous Music and Foods, etc.). Right now, none of these cultural topics fit into the current curriculum and being used to teach social studies. And why is that?

Mike Johnson

So it is apparent the esteemed editorial board would agree with the left wing candidate for Governor of Virginia, who said: "I don't think parents should be telling schools what they should teach," We should leave all decisions up to these kind of people and ignore parents, right?

rodney carswell

you MJ, are an expert builder of straw men.

Mike Johnson

So you agree that they agree with this statement? It's a simple question, not a straw man.

Joe Brownrigg

You STILL don't know what a "straw man" is!

Khal Spencer

History is always political. Its written by the winners. About time its written in a manner that is not winners or losers, but third party objective observers, if that can be done. Yeah, I know, progressives don't think objectivity exists.

So far I only waded through about a quarter of this proposal but my concern is that it is trying to start at the primary level, when I suspect students can barely read, let alone analyze. Fix that first. Otherwise, this borders on spoon-feeding. Students need to know critical thinking before they are handed loaded political and historical concepts.

My wife used to teach critical thinking and rhetoric in a college freshman English class where many of the students were ill-prepared even after obtaining a high school diploma. Can we ensure our primary and secondary school students are better than that? Not to mention, the teaching staff.

I think the idea is sound but if the delivery is lousy, we've not really gained anything.

Mike Johnson

Well said Khal, and I think it apparent, since most all of these people are political operatives, of one kind or another, politics will be used as a primary input to these decisions. No wonder NM kids are last in the US.

Jim Klukkert

Mike- the teaching of His story has always been the work promoting the ruling, propertied class. Political operatives of literally, the highest order, for sure.

Are you not glad that through their own merit, credentialed historians are finally influencing the decisions regarding curriculum?

Or do you believe we should turn over the teaching of Earth Sciences, your field, to parents and other amateurs.

Joe Brownrigg


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