The educrats are adept at creating phrases that both sound important and conceal their meaning. One new catchphrase is “Social and Emotional Learning” (SEL).
TSEL in New York State
According to the New York State Education Department (NYSED), this program is urgently needed due to the COVID crisis.
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“During this time period of the COVID-19 pandemic in which our ability to check in on one another in person is limited, it is even more critical that we find ways to reach out and check in with each other virtually, supporting everyone’s social emotional learning (SEL) and mental health.”
For further reference, NYSED refers its constituent school districts to an organization called CASEL, the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning. CASEL’s primary goal is ambitious. “CASEL collaborates with thought leaders to equip educators and policymakers with the knowledge and resources to advance social and emotional learning in equitable learning environments so all students can thrive.”
Is SEL Really Educational?
All authentic learning seeks to remove ignorance. Students start as ill-educated; ideal teachers are well-informed. As they gain skills and knowledge, the students’ abilities increasingly resemble their instructors’.
This relationship assumes a hierarchy. Traditionally, hierarchy was expressed by administrators, who told teachers what material to cover and supplied a textbook. Then, the teachers applied their expertise to interpret the material for the students so that they could retain it. The final step was for the teacher to evaluate the students’ new knowledge through some form of test.
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Modernists hate hierarchies because they clash with the egalitarian mindset. For the past century, schools have de-emphasized the expertise of the teachers. The new focus was the students’ self-discovery and social development.
“Transformative Social and Emotional Learning” is one more step along that path.
Traditional Words Masking Modernist Goals
CASEL’s brand of enlightenment contains a complicated prescription for teachers and students, which is found in the organization’s guidebook. This seventy-five-page opus is titled The CASEL Guide to Schoolwide SEL Essentials. It defines Social and Emotional Learning as a process with five goals:
- Develop healthy identities–“Self Awareness.”
- Manage emotions and achieve personal and collective goals–“Self Management.”
- Feel and show empathy for others–“Social Awareness.”
- Establish and maintain supportive relationships–“Relationship Skills.”
- Make responsible and caring decisions–“Responsible Decision-Making.”
The goals sound innocent, but the key terms are malleable and ambiguous. For instance, a modern American “positive life goal” wildly differs from those of cultures–like the Aztecs before European contact–that practiced human sacrifice.
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How does CASEL interpret those malleable terms?
“Safe, Healthy and Just”
The first hint appears on the Guide’s first page, where it introduces the most loaded term in the current educational environment: equity. “SEL can help address various forms of inequity and empower young people and adults to co-create thriving schools and contribute to safe, healthy, and just communities.”
The “woke” world has its own definitions for “safe, healthy, and just.” Safety doesn’t imply physical threats but a lack of “acceptance.” Healthy means accepting all postmodern standards and rejecting all others. A just world deconstructs “white privilege” to the advantage of “people of color” and “sexual minorities.” Schools must infuse these definitions through “all aspects of instruction.”
Thus, SEL is a bridge to the “anti-racist” world of Ibram X. Kendi and “Critical Race Theory.” Interestingly, neither term appears in the Guide, but the implications are clear.
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Additionally, the Guide emphasizes a “single shared vision,” “shared goals,” and having “all staff contribute to realizing the vision.” It ignores personal responsibility and free will.
Consider the following example of a goal found in the Guide.
“By Integrating SEL into Schoolwide Practices and Instruction We Will Teach Skills and Facilitate Opportunities for Students to Contribute to Positive Change By the end of school year 2021-22, all students will complete a growth portfolio that includes a focus on SEL and community leadership. This new portfolio rubric will be designed with input from staff, families, and students and will be differentiated by grade level, and at the middle grades level it will feature participatory action research and a student-led community action project.” (Capitalization, punctuation and grammar irregularities in the original.)
This description leaves no room for deviation. Everyone must be on board.
Teachers who don’t share the vision might find hints to their fate in the Guide’s “Personal SEL Reflection.” The section titled “Identity And Self Knowledge” includes three items upon which faculty members must evaluate themselves:
- I know and am realistic about my strengths and limitations.
- I recognize and reflect on ways in which my identity is shaped by other people and my race, culture, experiences, and environments.
- I recognize and reflect on ways in which my identity shapes my views, biases, and prejudices.
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The only possible responses are very difficult, difficult, easy and very easy.
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Such evaluations introduce an “anti-racist” ideology, which holds that “identity” determines all human interaction. Identity is, in turn, shaped by “intersections” between race, “sexual identity,” economic status, family structure, education, religious background, etc. That identity, then, dictates irreversible attitudes that cannot be changed.
Free will, virtue and vice do not exist in this dismal universe. Those who hold traditional views of the family and religion are excluded. They have no boxes to check to express their unshared views. The only option is acquiescence. Administrators will regard non-responses as rejections of the “shared vision.”
Another section of the self-evaluation comes under the heading, Understanding “Social Context.”
- I understand the systemic, historical, and organizational forces that operate among people.
- I appreciate and honor the cultural differences within my school community/workplace.
- I recognize the strengths of young people and their families and view them as partners.
Again, the respondent has no choice but to agree with the leftist, collective vision of group oppression and resistance.
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Some older, well-established teachers might successfully reject the prevailing ideology, but perhaps not. Even so, they paint a target on their backs. Younger teachers with intact Christian social views will find it more difficult since they have student loans and living expenses to pay. They are expendable. By objecting, they risk throwing away their college educations.
What About Parents and Students?
Likewise, the Guide assumes that parents will embrace the shared vision. Given the widespread reaction against such programs, such a view is ridiculously optimistic. However, dissenting parents must navigate the bureaucracy to oppose the SEL agenda.
School systems make it hard to register objections. First, they do not inform parents of the program’s existence. Indeed, administrators are not eager to share this information because they fear conflict. So, they act quietly. The bureaucracy is determined to accomplish two things–avoid being called racists in the local press and ignore malcontent parents.
When parents do find out, they often face a fait accompli. The board and superintendent have already adopted the curriculum, purchased materials and trained teachers. It is much harder to stop a program in progress than one being proposed. However, Critical Race Theory has been successfully eliminated in many school districts. Parents must brave the media that pillories parental criticism and accuse them of embracing groundless conspiracy theories.
Of course, the real victims are the students. They are the ones who are receiving this scandalous pottage (see Genesis 25:27-34) instead of the Americans’ birthright to a legitimate and virtuous education.
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