by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
As a longtime teacher, I have seen firsthand that education is a fad-filled field. Culturally responsive education, inventive spelling, new math, experiential learning, balanced literacy, etc. are educational styles that have come and gone and come and gone and . . .
One of the more enduring educational whims is Social Emotional Learning (SEL) which took off in the 1990s when the Collabortavie to Advance Social and Emotional Learning (CASEL) came into being, and hosted a conference with researchers, educators, child advocates, and others in the field. By integrating SEL in schools, the faithful claimed that they could “teach students critical life skills that will not only help their personal development but also their academic performance as well” and this, in turn, “creates a culture in which students and teachers respect one another and enjoy being together, further strengthening relationships and motivating both students and teachers to do their best.”
But as American Enterprise Institute Senior Fellow Robert Pondiscio explains, SEL has drifted ever closer to being a central purpose of education without a full and proper examination of its role, and has become an unwelcome intrusion into what has been traditionally the work of families, faith, culture, and other institutions. This has led to “schools assuming powers and responsibilities far beyond their brief and educators working beyond their training and expertise.” In other words, SEL has turned teachers into unlicensed psychotherapists. (It’s worth noting that schools acting as therapists is rather ironic. As Erika Sanzi, director of outreach at Parents Defending Education, points out, schools are heavily involved with inflicting emotional damage on children. Whether teaching about the looming global warming apocalypse, that white 6-year-olds are oppressors, or that kids are viral vectors who could pass a deadly case of Covid to grandma, schools are cruelly creating unnecessary fears in children.