Eight states will be working with the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) during the 2016–17 school year to develop new social and emotional learning (SEL) standards.
CASEL, which receives some government funding, states on its website the organization’s mission is to advance “the development of academic, social, and emotional competence for all students.”
CASEL announced in August it had chosen California, Georgia, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, and Washington State to participate in the Collaborating States Initiative (CSI) program. CASEL’s website says CSI “will allow us to actively partner with eight states on the development of policies, learning standards, and guidelines to support statewide implementation of social and emotional learning.”
Reporting on the program in August, an author for Chalkbeat.com wrote, “Strategies to bolster social and emotional skills include class meetings, breathing exercises, individual check-ins, and safe spaces where students can go to calm down without feeling like they’re being punished.”
On September 1, educators, parents, and researchers will begin collaborating with CASEL staff and an advisory group of experts chosen by CASEL to develop the SEL standards. The goal is to have the standards ready for review by state boards of education by spring 2017.
Government Thought Police?
Jane Robbins, a senior fellow at the American Principles Project, says SEL conditions children to think how the government tells them to.
“Instituting ‘positive behavioral intervention’ or promoting ways to ‘improve school climate’ all sounds great,” Robbins said. “You’re going to teach the really disruptive kids how to do better. But what you end up having is a child who thinks, behaves, and responds the way the government wants them to respond.”
‘Teachers Aren’t Trained’
Karen Effrem, a pediatrician, researcher, and president of Education Liberty Watch, says
SEL involves asking students to respond to statements and questions, including: “I am open to different opinions and perspectives,” “How old were you the first time you used marijuana or hashish?” and “During the past 12 months, on how many occasions have you seriously considered harming yourself on purpose?”
Effrem says teachers are not qualified to manage this sort of psychological analysis.
“Teachers aren’t trained to record information about kids and their SEL reactions to things; psychiatrists and psychologists are,” Effrem said.
Robbins says there isn’t much value in having unqualified people evaluating children.
“If you’re not trained to do it, the whole thing becomes very nebulous,” Robbins said. “What is normal for an eight-year-old to be doing? Who makes that decision?”
Effrem says parents should “absolutely be concerned about these surveys because of privacy invasions” and because the SEL training could “steer a child away from family mores and values.”
Effrem says parents won’t necessarily know what is in the SEL surveys when they’re conducted online.
“It becomes more difficult for parents to see what is asked when the test, parts of the curriculum, and surveys are given online,” Effrem said.
Jenni White ([email protected]) writes from Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.
“Collaborating States Initiative Request for Proposals,” Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning, April 11, 2016: https://heartland.org/publications-resources/publications/eight-states-join-social-emotional-learning-standards-initiative