New Mexico lawmakers debate state’s new social studies standards

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SANTA FE, N.M. — At the Roundhouse, lawmakers got into a heated debate over New Mexico’s new social studies standards.

State lawmakers on the Legislative Education Study Committee got an update on the state’s new social studies standards from Gwen Perea Warniment, deputy secretary of Teaching, Learning and Assessment for the New Mexico Public Education Department.

"Now, in addition to simply updating because of new knowledge and skills, we really wanted to ensure that with the adoption of new standards, students will see themselves reflected in the classroom, their learning environments are culturally and linguistically responsive, and that the backgrounds of all of our students and educators and the perspectives of all New Mexicans would come alive in the classroom," Perea said.

Republicans on the committee, like state Rep. Rod Montoya, feel the new standards will teach critical race theory – a way of thinking about U.S. history through the lens of racism.

Montoya: And what I found, and we’ve been told over and over is not there, are elements of critical race theory. Do you agree that those elements of critical race theory, Mr. speaker, Mr. chairman, are part of the curriculum, part of the standards being presented to school boards?

Warniment: Mr. chairman and representative, I do not agree that critical race theory is part of the standards, I do believe historical accuracy is part of the standards.

Montoya and other Republicans on the committee blasted critical race theory, saying it reinforces racism.

"What I believe critical race theory is doing and where it’s so dangerous, is it ends up teaching that race is worse than ever, race and ethnicity difference are worse than ever," Montoya said. "The more we highlight the difference instead of our similarities, the more we highlight that there is a whole wall between people, and separation."

Democrats on the committee criticized Republicans, saying they’re politicizing the new social studies standards.

"Some of this questioning is just out of order, we’re not teaching CRT," said state Sen. Harold Pope. "We’re not, and to have you up here to answer these questions, I just think they’re ridiculous."

The new standards will be implemented in the 2023-2024 school year.