Schools have long been places where children refine their social and emotional skills by interacting with other human beings. There is nothing wrong with this, nor is there anything wrong with teachers reinforcing basic relationship skills in the classroom. Then what’s the big deal about “social and emotional learning” programs being implemented in schools worldwide and why are so many parents and educators upset about this?
The problems are essentially five-fold:
First, systemic SEL shifts the school focus from academics to social skills.
Second, the definition of “social skills” is malleable and increasingly synonymous with “instilling pluralistic thinking” in children.
Third, SEL displaces parents as the primary transmitters of children’s values.
Fourth, digital SEL programs facilitate data collection on children that can be harnessed to advance a coercive economic agenda.
Fifth, SEL often aligns with global (not local) initiatives led by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and its partners.
The global purveyor of SEL standards known as CASEL (The Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning) cooperates with UNESCO to promote SEL worldwide. It is said that you can learn a lot about someone from the company they keep. Perhaps this is true of CASEL. CASEL is funded in part by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, and a radical feminist organization called the NoVo Foundation that says it is seeking to “rebalance an intensely patriarchal global culture.” The NoVo Foundation is run by Peter Buffett (son of leftist billionaire Warren Buffett) and Peter’s wife, Jennifer Buffett. The NoVo Foundation has also funded International Planned Parenthood Federation, Black Lives Matter, Equality Now, and other left-of-center entities.
Are the top priorities of most parents in your local school district to undermine patriarchy, expand abortion, expand LGBT advocacy, and increase racial tension in their children’s schools? If not, then perhaps globally funded SEL programs might not a good fit for your school district.
Is there a solution to the global infiltration of local schools through SEL? Yes. Decline to utilize programs that are linked to global education initiatives. As of now, only a portion of schools are required by their state education standards to provide SEL training in the classroom, but this will likely change since UNESCO seeks to advance the position that state standards should require SEL instruction in schools. This is an area where people can take local action: Fight to keep SEL requirements out of state curriculum standards. If SEL does become a requirement, advocate for programs created by people who are unconnected to the global SEL conglomerate.
Are there any such programs? Yes. Here are four options that deserve consideration. None of these programs collect or share data on students, other than to track their own program effectiveness, and none of them have ties to UNESCO, CASEL, or other global entities. However, each of these programs meets the SEL standards required in most school districts.
My Hero Journey
My Hero Journey focuses on helping every student become the “hero” of their own story and discover their unique strengths. It uses a wide range of techniques including reflective writing exercises aimed at helping each student zero in on a specific vision for their future and then align their daily choices with that vision. At the conclusion of the program, each student can receive a digital or printed storybook they helped create about their lives and their vision for the future. Program creator Amy Chandler says, “As individuals take the lead in being the hero of their story, they gain confidence and become empowered to create the future they want for themselves. They also gain compassion for the stories of the people around them. This inner shift ripples out to the classroom, the home, and the community.” (MyHeroJourney.com)
REAL Essentials offers middle school, high school, and college-age curricula focused on gaining the necessary skills to build healthy relationships. Joneen Mackenzie is the founder of the Center for Relationship Education and creator of the REAL Essentials curriculum. While working as a registered nurse, she witnessed the negative outcomes of unhealthy relationships and decided to take action. Mackenzie says a key moment for her was when a despondent young man asked her, “Does anybody stay together anymore?” From that point forward, Mackenzie was determined to help people improve and preserve the relationships in their lives. The REAL Essentials relationship curriculum is used by people in 47 states and seven countries. (MyRelationshipCenter.org)
Dash Into Learning
Joan Landes is a primary creator of the Dash into Learning educational series, which includes an emotional resilience program for children ages 5-10 called Dash into Happy. Landes is a clinical mental health counselor, a home educator, and mother of seven. The curriculum uses familiar fairy tales to teach core life lessons and resilience skills. The program is founded on the principles of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Trauma Informed Therapy, and Attachment Theory. The premiere set of five books includes an activity pack for use with each story. The stories are designed to be read and discussed on a repeating basis. Subsequent sets of books are forthcoming, including a series called Virtue and Valor that employs true stories of resilient people of the past to inspire children to persevere through challenges. Landes says the secret to the program’s success is that “Dash into Happy is gentle, positive, and growth-oriented, which are the hallmarks of sustainable change.” The program is designed for use by parents and other educators. (DashIntoLearning.com)
The Positivity Project
When Jeff Bryan and Mike Erwin returned from deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan, they started asking themselves what they could do to impact society for good. From that introspection came the birth of The Positivity Project, also known as P2. The program motto is, “Other People Matter.” The curriculum helps youth in pre-K through 12th grade develop 24 key character strengths — including humility, bravery, gratitude, forgiveness, creativity, kindness, humor, and perseverance — that help them deepen their relationships and improve the long-term quality of their lives. The Positivity Project includes a resource called P2 for Families, which offers an effective way for families to foster character strengths and positive relationships at home. The Positivity Project is partnered with more than 700 schools across the country.
In addition to these programs and others not featured here, new resources can be developed that meet the needs and reflect the values of the people in the communities who create them. Parents and teachers do not need to look to global institutions to teach children social and emotional skills. Those skills are best taught at home and supported in the classroom by teachers who know and care about the children they teach.
Now is a great time to talk to your local school administrators and invite them to resist the push to implement social and emotional learning programs or, if SEL is required, invite them to utilize programs that enhance local control, promote parental involvement, and are free from entanglements with the global education movement.