How Social and Emotional Learning as the Primary Focus is Coming in all the Windows

How would you feel if you heard your child’s principal declare openly that “what students know is not nearly as important as how they feel”? And you then did some follow-up research into Educational Leadership doctorates and discovered that is just one of the poisonous ideas they teach. What if I told you there was widespread excitement among administrators about new definitions of Growth and student achievement because they include social and emotional learning? And the expressed relief that “this will make us look so much better after the cheating scandals.” And that those definitions are being pushed by your federal government under those state waivers under No Child Left Behind.

Supporters have never been able to get the social and emotional learning (SEL) explicit permission through Congress. Making school about group work and social interactions and an emphasis on the psychological and emotional are just not politically popular. Manipulating and monitoring a student’s personality while also limiting what they can know factually or can do intellectually is terribly popular though among anyone who has ever had the ambition of using the schools to create a desired mindset for political change. In fact, the scheming essays and reports always note the need to push the SEL emphasis by the middle grades at the latest. Research it seems shows we are far less pliable after the age of 15 or so. Lovely stuff to read.

How then is it coming in? Some comes in through a “developmental” emphasis. They conveniently leave out the part about minimizing linguistic or cognitive development since these crucial areas are not equal among everyone. People differ in those capacities so out they go. Instead we get an emphasis on physical, social/interactive, psychological/emotional, and ethical development. These areas are deemed equally accessible to all more or less. Especially with group activities as the core. Then there’s the added advantage that none of these areas creates a mindset likely to call “Baloney!” on whatever bad idea is being pushed by Someone With Authority.

It thus comes in quietly under the cover of “soft skills” in a state statute or “life skills” in that new school or district charter. Or your district may be implementing the SEL emphasis while complaining about bullying. The need for a Positive School Climate to make sure nothing bad ever happens among students and everyone is always treated respectfully. Even when they say something really stupid. Mustn’t snicker anymore.¬† Need Character Education that emphasizes the mental health of each child. Or the Happiness research from England. How about a School Climate audit from the now renamed Center for Social and Emotional Education? With the slogan “Educating minds and hearts, because the Three R’s are not enough.”

How about federal agencies trying to turn all “negative actions with an intent to harm” into a federal problem whenever there is an imbalance of power between the students? No I am not kidding. http://www.gao.gov/assets/600/591202.pdf shows the pressure being put on the states and districts to do something in advance of any problem. With the SEL remedies already printed up and ready to be hired for SEL professional development.

It’s interesting that the most common reaction to that GAO report among adults is what a tremendous tool it will give adults to bully children while they are in school. Especially able children or students with unique opinions or who would rather remain a distinct individual. Who really do not enjoy or have much use for the idea that a group, any group, comes¬† first. The sort of kid that looks at the adult who says “I am because we are” is an appropriate slogan for life in the 21st century and asks if he is joking.

When I was writing the previous post on the misleading use of charters, I had the image of some well-paid school superintendent without any record of personal academic achievement trying to climb on the back of the bright, talented high school student and whispering in her ear: “You A students think you are so smart. I’ll show you now.” Let’s face it. An SEL school focus licenses some fairly mediocre people who have not been honest with us about what their actual intentions are towards the schools and our children and our tax money. It gives them official permission to let loose with the power of the state behind them with every thought of envy they have ever had. Toward anyone. About anything. The entire Greenie Meanie instincts of the Ages.

You think it can’t happen in your child’s school? How about the National Center for Learning Disabilities recently requiring that all students should be subjected to the PBIS, Positive Behaviors Interventions and Supports, frameworks? And that PBIS behavioral goals should be embedded in all the academic classes. Think any official will tell you? Or that Common Core must be implemented using A Whole Child approach. How about the fact that the new AdvancED accreditation standards obligate the schools to collect data on each child’s physical, social, and emotional needs? Must have been a typo. No one seems to be interested anymore in what, beyond basic concepts, the child actually knows. Although I did read a complaint recently from a professor complaining about the superliterate student and how they made others feel with their superior knowledge.

What does personal freedom mean in a country requiring these types of intrusions in its public schools? And this level of monitoring? Because this is the bulk of the data you keep hearing about. The feedback is much more likely to be undesirable attitudes and beliefs. Going into an official longitudinal database. More stimulus dollars at work! It certainly won’t be “this child really needs to brush up on their knowledge of what led to World War 2.” No. We wouldn’t want the students or parents or taxpayers to be aware of what is happening. Because together and informed they might be able to stop it.