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New Mexico is stepping up attention to the K-12 race despite the answer Lifestyle

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From CEDAR ATTANASIO – Associated Press / Report for America

SANTA FE, NM (AP) – K-12 students from New Mexico will see more focus on racial and ethnicity, including Indian history, in their curriculum over the next two years according to new standards aimed at to make the teaching of social research more cultural.

The New Mexico Department of Public Education recently completed changes after months of debate that included rebuffing parents who worried their children would be called racists. The standards do not provide specific lessons or textbooks, but require school districts to focus more on social identity and understanding of the world through the prism of race, class, and privilege.

New Mexico is the last Democrat-led state to approve new public school standards amid a move toward a more open discussion of race. As in Washington and New York, the standards require students to identify and articulate their cultural identity beginning in elementary school. Ethnic studies will now be part of the high school program, though not required for graduation, as in California.

Dozens of other states have passed laws restricting race and gender issues due to concerns, especially among the Republican Party, “Critical race theory”, which has become a general term to denote identity politics in education. In Virginia, the governor is seeking to eradicate all traces of “concepts that are inherently divisive,” which some parents believe could make children feel racist because of skin color.

In New Mexico, hundreds of parents, teachers and grandparents voted for and against the proposed changes last fall. Officials have heard public comments in thousands of letters and hundreds of speeches Zoom forum for the whole day.

Supporters supported a closer look at the history of indigenous communities in the state and more discussion of race and identity at an earlier age.

The final rule published February 16threfuted some criticisms regarding identity and integrated a request to include personal finances in curriculum changes.

School districts may begin implementing new standards next year and are expected to do so in the fall of 2023.

This is the first since 2001 a major overhaul of state social research standards, expanding the sections of history, geography, civics and economics.

New standards are changing the way Indians are taught history. In the coming years, students are more likely to study the state’s 23 tribes on their own terms and more in-depth. In the past, that story was superficial and focused on comparison and contrast with European conquerors.

Government officials from education are also under pressure to make the K-12 school system more relevant to 11% of non-Indian students, in part due to lengthy litigation. In 2018, the court ruled that the state did not meet the educational needs of indigenous children, and the education department had not yet published a plan to address the issues outlined by the court, and it faces further litigation.

Alice Deal, an education lawyer for the Center for Law and Poverty of New Mexico representing the plaintiffs, called the changes in social research standards “the first step toward creating a public education system that takes into account students’ culture, language and life experiences as needed. our statute and constitution. “

Opponents of the new approach have feared that children will be called victims or oppressors depending on their race.

Some commentators highlighted all the proposed rules, identifying the language they saw as an echo of critical racial theory, including phrases such as “unequal power relations”, “privileges or systemic inequality” and requirements for students to identify their “group identity” starting with kindergarten.

The agency decided to keep this language and even increased the number of these terms in an effort to make the language consistent across the various sections of the final rule.

In response to this criticism, it was stated that: “Critical race theory is suitable for discussion at the graduate level and is not contained in the standards.”

At the heart of the debate is whether the discussion of class differences reinforces or softens social divisions.

Earlier this month, Republicans in the New Mexico Legislature proposed banning critical racial theory. They also proposed replacing the leadership in the education department, which is now appointed by the governor, with an election council. Both measures did not work.

In a letter to state education officials last week, Republican leaders said they would advocate for counties to use space in the curriculum requirements to maintain conservative textbooks and lesson plans. They said education officials ignored public opposition.

The agency “had no real intention to make significant changes to the proposed standards, which clearly went beyond the core values ​​and traditions of New Mexico,” the letter said.

The letter was signed by Republican leaders in the House of Representatives, including Rebecca Doe, “Truth or Consequences.” Dow is one of three members of her party fighting in the primaries for the incumbent governor, a Democrat.

“Whether they meet all the definitions of ‘critical racial theory’ or not, the new standards seem to be designed to divide new Mexicans by race, ethnicity and economic status,” said Paul Gessing, president of the Rio Grande Foundation’s Libertarian think tank. .

The authors of the changes say that identity has become a more important and prominent aspect of society and requires study.

“It’s more like an in-depth study of the fact that there are differences in identities and that not everyone will always think alike. But the level of respect for different opinions is what we want to show in the classroom, ”said Irene Barry, an Aztec English teacher in New Mexico.

Barry says the biggest changes in social research standards are the gradual introduction to social identity with K-12 and the expansion of civics and geography in high school. Previous standards did not focus on identity and completed geography and civics in high school.

Heads of the education department said removing the language advocated by Barry and other teachers would devalue their work, despite numerous public objections voiced in the comments.

“You want to respect them, their voice and the role they have played in creating these (educational standards),” said Gwen Peraa Variment, Deputy Secretary for Teaching, Learning and Evaluation in the Department of Education.

In economics, the agency responded to public comments with radical changes, adding a whole new section on personal finance following a campaign of letters backed by a local think tank on education policy.

By fifth grade, students can learn to track expenses and savings. In high school, standards include sections on understanding credit scores, the implications of credit cards, and ways to create wealth through tools such as stocks, savings, and real estate.

“New Mexico is now joining 45 other states that include personal finance in their K-12 education standards, an important first step in fighting intergenerational poverty,” said Aubenizia Baldanada, Think New’s director of education reform. Mexico, which promoted the Letters campaign. .

Baldanada advocates that personal finances be needed for high school graduation.

This story has been corrected given that the last revision of social science standards was in 2001.

Attanasio is a member of the Associated Press / Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a non-profit national service program that puts journalists in local newsrooms to report on issues that are not well covered. Follow Attanasio on Twitter.

Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or distributed without permission.

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