After sending the New Mexico Public Education Department a strongly worded letter about the exclusion of Rosa Parks and Malcolm X from the state end-of-course history exam “blueprint,” Albuquerque NAACP president Harold Bailey says his position has softened.
Bailey met with PED Deputy Secretary of Teaching and Learning Matt Montaño on Monday morning, and he is now convinced that PED is committed to inclusiveness and diversity. But Bailey would still like to see both civil rights leaders put back on the test.
“I got the feeling that he (Montaño) was sincere, so I’m hoping he will take a message back and they will do the right thing,” Bailey said.
Montaño told the Journal that his meeting with Bailey was “extremely productive” and said PED will continue to work with the NAACP.
It was a step forward in a saga that began in late October when Rep. G. Andrés Romero, D-Albuquerque, spoke out about the history exam blueprint posted on PED’s website.
Romero, a U.S. history teacher at Atrisco Heritage Academy High School, highlighted the loss of items on the civil rights movement, Roe v. Wade and the atomic bomb attack on Japan. The test still includes Martin Luther King Jr., Russell Means and César Chávez.
Other less controversial omissions include the Panama Canal, Senator Henry Cabot Lodge and industrial mobilization during World War II.
Secretary of Education-designate Chris Ruszkowski has said PED is shortening the exam at teachers’ request and these topics are still part of the standards that should be covered in the classroom.
Montaño reiterated that point on Monday.
“I assured him (Bailey) that the history standards have not been altered, nor are any individuals within our nation’s history eliminated from the standards,” he said.
Some Democratic lawmakers have accused PED of attempting to “whitewash” or “sanitize” history – a fight that came on the heels of PED’s now abandoned proposal to remove some references to evolution and the age of the earth from state science standards.
During a November meeting of the Legislative Education Study Committee, Rep. Sheryl Williams Stapleton, D-Albuquerque, told Montaño that Rosa Parks, who refused to give up her bus seat to a white passenger in 1955, “is the reason I can sit here as a black woman and question you about what has been redacted.”
Bailey applauded Williams Stapleton in a November letter to PED, which accused the state of holding a position that is “shortsighted, offensive and inflammatory.”
“The Albuquerque NAACP believes that the Public Education Department has a record of making questionable decisions related to race and culture within an educational context,” the letter states. “African-American History is U.S. History and should be respected as such.”
Bailey said his hourlong meeting with Montaño at a local Starbucks changed his perspective, but he still believes PED needs to be careful about what it removes from exams. Restoring Rosa Parks and Malcolm X to the test would show that PED values diversity, Bailey said.
If that doesn’t happen, Bailey will push for a meeting with Ruszkowski.
“They have to be fair to all the groups, period,” Bailey said.