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New Mexico Social Studies Curriculum a Peek Into a Orwellian Future

December 19, 2017

“vulnerable,” “diversity,” “entitlement,” “transgender,” “fetus,” “evidence-based,” and “science-based.”

This past weekend there was a lot of uproar in the press and on social media over the Trump Administration’s edict that the Center for Disease Control ban the use of the seven words listed above. At the same time as this rule was promulgated, the state of New Mexico sanitized its social studies curriculum by making the following changes:

…erased the names of key civil rights leaders, such as Rosa Parks and Malcolm X.

…erased the end of slavery as a result of the Industrial Revolution

…erased key Supreme Court decisions like Roe vs. Wade, which affects the lives of all women in our nation.

…erased key historical actors and factors that are essential to understanding the development of the U.S. economy and industry, and the expansion of our political system and democracy to become more inclusive of working-class men and women, and racial and ethnic minorities.

But social studies was not the only area where crucially information is no longer taught. Several key topics in the curriculum blueprints for the health course were “erased”: nutrition, alcohol, selection of healthy food choices, healthy versus unhealthy relationships, the importance of health screenings, and emotional and physical changes in puberty.

These changes were brought to my attention in retired professor Lois Rudnik’s op ed article from the Santa Fe New Mexican… changes, among others, that led her to pose these questions:

For New Mexico history: Is it possible that we can educate “successful and responsible citizens” without their learning about the role of the federal government in creating and maintaining military bases and national laboratories in our state? Can they become effective citizens without learning how a bill becomes a law; about executive officers and their respective powers, or about the impeachment process?

For U.S. history: Is it possible that we can “prepare students to succeed in a diverse and increasingly complex world,” without their learning about the formation of trusts and trust busting? The racial and ethnic conflicts that resulted from the growth of cities in the 20th century? The changes in U.S. foreign policy from isolationism to interventionism? The League of Nations? The role of credit in the onset of the Great Depression? The dropping of the atomic bombs on Japan?

The deeper question is: Why would any legislature wanting to ensure the perpetuation of a highly functioning democracy eliminate these items from their social studies curriculum? And the items omitted from the health topics raise another deeper question: Why would any legislature that wants to promote the health and well being of children and adults eliminate these items from their health curriculum?

The only answer I can come up with to those two questions is this: one political party is so intent on demonstrating the ineffectiveness of public schools and government itself that it is willing to topple democracy and its underlying support system: public education.

New Mexico recently went through a battle over changes to the science curriculum when the powers that be tried to eliminate references to evolution, global warming, and the age of the Earth. At that juncture the public protested to the extent that these were put back in place. Ms. Rudnick is hoping the same thing happens this time around with social studies and health:

When (Matt) Montaño (NM’s director of educator effectiveness and development) was asked if the test subjects that have been eliminated could be restored, he said, “Yes, of course.” But he didn’t say that they would be. They haven’t been. And without intense public scrutiny and pressure— the kind that resulted in the restoration of the science standards — they won’t be.

There is a lot to pay attention to in this day and age of redefining reality… Here’s hoping the citizens, teachers, and health professionals in New Mexico push back!

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