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Ethnic Studies Program in NM Lacking Adequate Native Input

The Albuquerque Public School system recently decided to implement ethnic studies programs for their 13 high schools.

The Albuquerque Public School system recently decided to implement ethnic studies programs for their 13 high schools. The curriculum is being developed now and will be introduced at the beginning of the 2017-2018 school year. The process began with an “Ethnic Studies Professional Development Seminar” that brought in about 40 teachers and community members.

The curriculum will include material on Hispanic, Native American, African American and Asian cultures,and will be offered to high school juniors and seniors as an elective.

“We have found that teaching ethnic studies helps minority students stay in school because they’re learning about their own history, they’re learning about their own contributions to the country, they’re learning about their own cultural story within the United States,” said Ralph Arellanes, Sr., chairman of the Hispano Round Table of New Mexico, who is leading the charge for developing the ethnic studies curriculum within APS. APS is struggling with a graduation rate hovering around 60 percent, one of the lowest in the nation.

This all sounds like a step in the right direction. However, there is concern that Native Americans are not being asked for their fair share of input.

Dr. Daisy Thompson, Director of the Office of Indian Education for the APS and a member of the Navajo Nation, said her group hasn’t been consulted adequately. “A lot of people here in New Mexico are very ignorant about the tribes, about the number of tribes, and their knowledge about Native Americans. I feel we have a wealth of information, but yet no one has approached us to talk about this.”

“The Office of Indian Education will have plenty of opportunity for input into this curriculum,” said Arellanes. “We’ve been pushing for this for at least 30 years. It’s a shame [it took so long].

“I’ve already started asking questions about how this curriculum is being developed,” said Thompson, the only Native American to attend the seminar. “What does it look like and how much time will be devoted to each group that will be presented and studied by the students?”

“We’re going to try to tell the true history of New Mexico,” said Arellanes, who was born and raised in Las Vegas, New Mexico.

“Some of the criticism I have heard is let’s make sure the correct history is taught.” said Arellanes. “The last thing we want to do is institute ethnic studies and then it ends up backfiring because people teach the wrong history and the wrong facts.”