SEL: Love or Hate?

Rick Hess has written a recent post at EdWeek called SEL Is Easy to Love, Which Should Make Us Nervous.  Hess seems to be sitting the fence in trying to objectively presenting two sides of the issue while promoting SEL.

“How the hell did we get to a point where it’s a big deal to observe that children learn better when they feel valued, respected, supported, and safe?”

All of which shapes my mixed feelings on the new enthusiasm for SEL. I’m entirely supportive of the premise.

And yet I find it a whole lot easier to think of all the ways this low-key, decentralized, likable enterprise can ultimately do more harm than good.

For another, there are a whole host of vendors, goofballs, and charlatans who have a program, intervention, or curriculum they’re looking to pitch as an answer to the SEL challenge—I’ve little confidence that schools and systems are equipped to sort the wheat from the chaff.

Here’s a collection of articles and papers expressing concern about SEL and related issues.  Most have been written by Karen Effrem and Jane Robbins.

Hijacking Their Minds: How ‘safe schools’ & social emotional learning indoctrinate our children

Schools Ditch Academics For Emotional Manipulation

Goodbye, Privacy? How New EdTech Is Turning Students Into Lab Rats

Flawed Report Uses Pseudoscience to Promote “Social Emotional Learning”

“Social Emotional Learning” Advocates Are Still Ignoring Its Many Problems

Expanding Unproven “Social Emotional Learning” Will Not Make Schools Safer

OECD Pushes Facebook-Style Personality Profiling of Students Worldwide

Summary of Major Concerns with Social Emotional Learning (SEL)

National Coalition Letter to U.S. House Education and Workforce Committee regarding potential FERPA rewrite – April 2018

Dangerously Flawed “TeenScreen” Mental Health Program Returning to Schools

Screen and Medicate More Students? School Safety Commission Gets Wrong Message

As indicated in the articles and papers in the above links, there are many concerns about SEL.  Here is a list of concerns.

Social Emotional Learning

  • Social emotional learning (SEL) standards, benchmarks, learning indicators, programs, and assessments address subjective non-cognitive factors.
  • Subjective non-cognitive factors addressed in SEL programs may include attributes, dispositions, social skills, attitudes, beliefs, feelings, emotions, mindsets, metacognitive learning skills, motivation, grit, self-regulation, tenacity, perseverance, resilience, and intrapersonal resources even though programs may use different terminology.
  • The federal government does not have the constitutional authority to promote or develop social emotional standards, benchmarks, learning indicators, programs or assessments.
  • Promoting and implementing formal SEL program standards, benchmarks, learning indicators and assessments will depersonalize the informal education good teachers have always provided.
  • Teachers implementing SEL standards, benchmarks, learning indicators, programs, and assessments may end up taking on the role of mental health therapists for which they are not professionally trained. SEL programs should require the onsite supervision of adequately trained professional psychologists/psychotherapists.
  • Social and emotional learning programs take time away from academic knowledge and fundamental skills instruction.
  • SEL programs may promote and establish thoughts, values, beliefs, and attitudes not reflective of those held by parents and infringe upon parental rights to direct the upbringing and education of their children.
  • Informed active written parental consent should be required prior to any student participating in any social emotional learning program or assessment through the school system.
  • Sensitive personally identifiable non-cognitive data will be collected on individuals through SEL programs.
  • The collection and use of subjective non-cognitive individual student SEL data may result in improper labeling of students. This data will follow individuals throughout their lifetime with the potential for unintended use resulting in negative consequences.
  • Concerns have been expressed that SEL programs and collected data may potentially be misused with a captive and vulnerable audience for indoctrination, social and emotional engineering, to influence compliance, and to predict future behavior.

This list of bullet points can be downloaded as a one page pdf document by clicking here.


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