Two state senators grappled with the definition of “ethnic studies” in schools during a legislative hearing Wednesday morning.
State Sen. Linda Lopez, D-Albuquerque, sponsored a bill to require that schools offer courses in ethnic studies as electives. State Sen. Craig Brandt, R-Rio Rancho, was the only member of the Senate Education Committee to vote against the bill.
Brandt asked Lopez if her bill would include “all ethnicities.”
Yes, she responded, mentioning Latinos, Asian-Americans, African-Americans and Native Americans as examples.
“You didn’t mention mine, and I am an ethnicity,” Brandt, who is white, said. “Will Anglo and European be included? We are a minority in this state.”
Lopez explained that European and Anglo perspectives are already included in general history books, a point she reiterated in a brief interview after the discussion.
“History books are already written from the point of Anglo rhetoric,” Lopez told NM Political Report.
She also contended that general history books often leave out hardships experienced by communities of color and said that is one of the lessons ethnic studies courses can provide.
Brandt told Lopez that he wanted to address more about his concerns with her “offline.”
After the meeting, Brandt told NM Political Report that he could support the bill down the line, but reiterated that it should include “all ethnicities.”
Responding to Lopez’s point about Anglo and European viewpoints already being expressed in general history courses, Brandt said, “it’s been a long time since I took history, but I didn’t remember only learning about white-Anglos.”
He also questioned whether the state Public Education Department, which he said “lays out the state standards,” would allow schools to exclude “all ethnicities” from ethnic studies programs.
Albuquerque Public Schools, the state’s largest school district, already has ethnic studies courses in all 13 of its high schools.
In 2013, State Rep. Antonio “Moe” Maestas, D-Albuquerque, sought to pass a memorial asking that schools adjust their curricula to support seven books “that encourage New Mexicans to understand their cultural history while empowering a generation of youth who are proud of their heritage and ready to contribute to the rapidly evolving American landscape.”
This came two years after the state of Arizona banned Mexican-American studies.
Maestas’ memorial did not pass, but became national news because of the reaction from then-State Rep. Nora Espinoza, a Republican from Roswell.
“These are are extremely racist and hate books,” Espinoza said at the time.