Monday, November 29, 2021

Latest New Mexico K-12 course controversy, only on Zoom

SANTA FE, NM (AP) — Officials in New Mexico have been inundated with critical papers on proposed K-12 social studies standards covering racial identity and social justice topics in the majority Latino state, where indigenous tribes fought wars. , famines, internment camps and boarding schools aim to stamp their cultures.

If approved, the standards would require students starting in kindergarten to “identify some of their group identities” and “take group or individual action to help solve local, regional and/or global problems” ”

By high school, students would “examine the factors that resulted in unequal power relationships between identity groups.”

Critics, including some Hispanics, say the standards promote poaching, while supporters praise the standards as “more just and racist”.

Proposed New Mexico standards represent a new frontier in the conflict over “critical race theory”. – An academic concept used by conservative activists as a key term for the study of systemic racism, historical oppression, or progressive social activism.

The political event centered around the term has been credited with prompting some voters to choose a Republican governor, with mixed results. Other local elections across the country on 1 November.

New Mexico educators already face a challenge in explaining the region’s history and its evolving social structures. The state is a patchwork of 23 federally recognized Native American nations, tribes, and pueblos.

Half of the state is Latino and about 10% of New Mexico’s students are Native American—many of whom trace their heritage to pre-Columbian and 16th-century Spanish conquistadors.

Tensions over that history erupted last year When a group of mostly white activists destroyed a historical marker commemorating Union soldiers who fought against Confederate and indigenous armies. The stone obelisk sat at the reference point of the land appropriated by the Spanish settlers.

The proposed standards from the New Mexico Public Education Department are intended to make the civics, history, and geography of the state’s diverse population more inclusive so that students feel at home in the curriculum and prepared for a minority-majority society. They add to the requirements for students to learn more details about indigenous life, including more of specific native cultures.

Some studies have found that ethnic studies programs at the high school level can increase school attendance and graduation rates. And a lawsuit from New Mexico seeks to pressure the state’s Department of Education to adopt teaching that students find relevant to their cultures and languages.

The Department of Education also wants to update the part of the History of Social Studies curriculum, which hasn’t been changed in three decades. Proposed teaching sections include the September 11 attacks and the LGBT rights movement.

But many teachers are concerned about the size and scope of the proposed updates.

He has said that the school science standards updated in 2017 were based on the existing curriculum used in other states for years. Teachers and administrators also say they have been overwhelmed by the work of returning to school amid the pandemic.

“It looks like it’s being rushed and I don’t know why,” said Kevin Summers, superintendent of the Aztec Municipal School District in northwestern New Mexico. “Can we step back? Can we get another six months?”

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State Republican officials have tried to tap into the national controversy over education. But Republic’s effort last spring to recruit school board members to an important race stage didn’t stop.

State education officials had originally planned a personal public forum on November 12 for supporters and opponents to share their opinions about the proposed standards. But the Venue was changed to Zoom.

This would deprive Republicans of a physical place to rally. State GOP President Steve Pearce called for the cancellation of the in-person forum, saying “the political decision to kill the public comment period is as dangerous as the proposal.”

The Education Department said in response that all public comment on proposed rule changes since the pandemic began has been virtual and extended the length of Zoom sessions to several hours.

“We are in a pandemic, so crowds in an indoor setting can be dangerous,” said Department of Education spokeswoman Judy Robinson.

The proposed changes represent the biggest course controversy since its attempt to update the new science standards in 2017 during Republican Gov. Susanna Martinez’s administration.

What New Mexico children learn in school is often determined less by law and more by the administrative rule-making process by education officials, which includes public comments, reactions, and possible inclusion of feedback.

According to the Secretary of Education, who led the 2017 Science Standards, it is one of the strongest powers the agency has.

Christopher Ruskovski, the education secretary under Martinez, said public education changes usually do not happen under law, but are implemented by the Department of Education and “90% of policymaking is done at the rules level.”

The public comment led to major changes to the science standards proposed by the agency, he said, which had downgraded scientific facts to placate anti-science constituents after initial response sessions.

The Department of Education removed Earth’s actual age and human evolution, contradicting some biblical interpretations, and clear references to unpopular climate change in the oil-producing regions of southeastern New Mexico.

Ruszkowski said he authorized the changes to a draft resolution, even though he did not personally support them.

It generated a backlash from scientists In halls packed with letters, newspaper advertisements and public commentary forums.

In the end, the agency fully implemented basic science standards.

During the process of developing the science standards prior to drafting, sessions were held with members of the public to gather input. But the Department of Education did not do so this time, instead inviting 64 people – mostly teachers and administrators – to draft standards privately over the summer.

The draft was released on September 28 and the Department of Education wants students to learn using the new curriculum in the next school year.


Attanasio is a core member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. report for america is a non-profit national service program that hires journalists in local newsrooms to report on the issues covered. Follow Attanasio Twitter.


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