In honor of the upcoming holiday, I am going to pause the march toward the real meaning of “college ready” as the other primary goal of the Common Core national education reforms. There have been so many out of the blue explicit confirmations of earlier posts and points in just the last week. In some cases things that the author probably would not have said so clearly if they were aware of what I have already written about the real implementation. And the true goals once you strip away the phrases that sound good but actually mean something else. So I am going to post shorter and more often to illustrate and reenforce some of the points we have already talked about.
Talking about reality so we can hopefully avoid the full force of these bad ideas seems to me to be a lovely way to celebrate a National Independence Day. It’s also an effective way I hope to keep us independent as individuals. So we can create our own communities based on our own beliefs and priorities. Here goes:
Ground Zero for the initiative to push social and emotional learning in the schools is a Chicago-based center called CASEL, the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning. http://casel.org/ Now for years CASEL lobbied both state legislatures and Congress to enact legislation to mandate SEL for the schools. Apart from Illinois, it went nowhere because parents and taxpayers were uncomfortable with such intrusions. Also many parents still remembered the story of a tragic suicide in Pennsylvania more than 20 years ago after emotionally manipulative curricula were piloted in the schools there.
So we get the name changes to soft skills and life skills and federal bullying initiatives and School Climate Indexes and Growth as the measure of student achievement and whatever else it takes to get these SEL programs into the schools and classrooms. None of that changes the fact that if you watch the videos at CASEL, they are up front that these SEL behavioral interventions they are pushing are designed to physically alter the biological structure of the brain. CASEL sees education as holistic and aspires to literally shape the child’s brain to produce alterations that lay the foundation for all future learning, emotional regulation, and social function. To leave no doubt the CASEL speaker goes on to state that “qualities such as patience, calmness, cooperation, and kindness are all best regarded as skills that can be trained.”
So yes CASEL is on my radar. There’s nothing like hearing a speaker say that the PreFrontal Cortex of a student’s brain “plays a critical role in the integration of thought and emotion and the regulation of emotion.” Gulp. Gulp. Inhale Deeply. This is just starting up so there is still time in most districts and states. The speaker also mentioned that “adolescence is when the prefrontal cortex develops to the greatest extent.” Which is why I suppose the Middle School Principals are being taught that feeling is more important than knowing. See http://www.invisibleserfscollar.com/how-social-and-emotional-learning-as-the-primary-focus-is-coming-in-all-the-windows/
Which is why the recent newspaper clipping explaining that the Atlanta-based Educational Advisory Group had held an Anti-Bullying Conference for Buckhead area teachers caught my eye. The speaker, Erin Mason of DePaul University, “focused not only on bullying itself, but also on what behaviors teachers and counselors should be promoting instead.” It then goes on to quote CASEL’s website directly to state that “social and emotional learning is a process for helping children and even adults develop the fundamental skills for life effectiveness.”
Oh good. That certainly is a new, unappreciated definition of student achievement. It explains the administrative excitement over a new definition of student success. I don’t think the parents or taxpayers would be so pleased if they really appreciated what is to be going on at school under the new Common Core. Sounds also like the parents are targets too. Might want to be careful about signing up for parent training luncheons. Unless you want to go and take notes for me.