Eric Jansen writes for the Martin Center about a major omission in today’s education.

One of the most important aspects of our society is educating our children to properly function within it. While the education system is centered around the “core” academics, research in recent decades has suggested that Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) has unrealized benefits for academic prowess and well-being.

SEL is “the process through which children and adults understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions,” as the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning explains.

SEL seeks to teach students the skills they need to control themselves in social situations and to properly deal with their emotions. This can be as simple as knowing how to introduce oneself or how to manage anger in a professional setting, or as complex as how to have a healthy relationship or how to deal with the death of a loved one. These skills are ignored all too often when it comes to educating our future generations because they are not “academic” and are seen as irrelevant to developing job skills (although we will see later why this is a misconception), compared to easier-to-test skills like literacy or arithmetic.

Social and emotional skills aren’t inherent; children must learn them from society and people. As the institutions of family and church have declined in the past century, schools and teachers have picked up the slack to prepare students to thrive in society. SEL is a proven tactic to prepare students for the world, and music education especially can popularize its use.

Music educators already teach many SEL skills such as collaboration, co-operation, self-discipline, and self-awareness. If an ensemble does not work together properly, or if the players don’t do their work, the group can’t perform.