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LETTER RE: “6.29.11 NMAC, Social Studies”

NM PED Policy Division: Please accept the below comments on the proposed new administrative “Rule 6.29.11 NMAC, Social Studies”:

November 9, 2021

AFT New Mexico is submitting this letter in support of the proposed revisions to the New Mexico Social Studies standards.

Development of Proposed Standards

As educators, we appreciate the State devising a process where these proposed rules were considered, debated, vetted, and agreed upon by actual public educators who saw a need for a long-overdue revision to New Mexico’s Social Studies standards. To be clear, revisions to our academic content should not be a hasty process, and to us, the NM PED got this aspect of the rulemaking right.

Our social studies standards have not been updated in some twenty years, and we agree with the NM PED that modernizing our standards is critical at this juncture. New Mexico’s unique educational position in relation to the historic Yazzie/Martinez decision makes the need for these long overdue changes not only necessary, but critical for the well-being of our students’ educational journeys.

Transparency of Proposed Rulemaking

Additionally, we appreciate the expanded access given to the public during this process to not only give their opinion, but the commitment from the NM PED to take feedback received from public comment to members of the committee who drafted these proposed rules.

This, to us, shows a deep commitment to our State and making sure all voices are heard throughout this process. This commitment to transparency has also been demonstrated through the NM PED’s efforts to expand access to the public-facing component of rulemaking, namely expanding the time for public comment on this proposed rule.

Additional Content Areas

The addition of “ethnic, cultural, and identity studies” and “inquiry” are necessary inclusions for a few reasons. Primarily, adding focus areas around ethnicity, culture, and identity serves the purpose of widening our lenses when studying our shared history. New Mexico is a multi-cultural state, but for too long, our historical lens has skewed towards viewpoints representing only a fraction of those who call our great state home.

We must do better, and having honest, and sometimes passionate conversations with students will best equip them to learn, understand, and interpret historical events in a more holistic way. We view this additional content as a celebration of our students and these revised standards will help them see how their own histories have shaped our current societal climate.

Teaching skills around inquiry is also important for our students. In a society where historical facts are questioned regularly, helping students to think critically and hear viewpoints which are perhaps different than their own can help future-adults to be appreciative of the rich history of our State and how it has shaped the reality they will enter upon leaving our classrooms.

We believe strongly a well-informed and engaged society is a barometer of a healthy democracy. Equipping our students to be able to evaluate information presented to them – whether it is by an educator or anyone else – is important.

We recognize the current proposed rule does not require uniformity in thought, and as educators, we share this value. We simply want to best prepare our students to be able to navigate a society with complex historical issues and how those issues are expressed in a modern context.

Volume of Content

One area of feedback we have received from educators is the concern that with additional, modernized standards, the due diligence that can be reasonably given to an already lengthy set of standards could be constrained due to lack of time in an academic year.

We would request that as you evaluate public feedback around this proposed rule, that the sheer volume of material expected to be covered is considered. Educators desire to fully teach the content area, however, with additional standards, this desire could be unrealized.

We look forward to seeing the finalized standards soon, and our union of professionals appreciate the thoughtful and inclusive approach to these proposed revisions.

Ultimately, our profession and our union will always advocate for curriculum which reflects the varied histories of our students and communities – both shared histories and moments where historical events can be uncomfortable to discuss. Public schools must strive to be honest and trusted sources of information at all levels of education, and we believe these proposed social studies standards are an exercise in that deeply held belief. We owe no less to our students and their families.


Whitney Holland
President, AFT New Mexico


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