National Organizations Seek to Impose SEL Standards Across the Nation


This article was originally posted at Conservative Review and co-authored by Jane Robbins, a senior fellow at the American Principles Project.

The battle over who will direct the hearts and minds of children is intensifying. Within the dangerous labyrinth of Common Core standards, testing, and data-mining is the even more concerning ramp-up of social emotional learning (SEL). Parents and teachers who believe in genuine education rather than pseudo-psychological evaluation are facing off against bipartisan big government and its affiliated corporations and foundations. An update:

This summer the Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning (CASEL) announced it had chosen eight states to collaborate on creating K-12 SEL standards. All K-12 students would be measured on five “noncognitive” factors: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision-making, including ethical decision-making. As we’ve written, the result is that overworked, untrained teachers essentially become psychotherapists to their classrooms of patients.  Other problems we’ve warned about include subjectivity of the standards and assessments, indoctrination, danger to freedom of conscience, data-mining, and inadequate security of this sensitive data that resides for eternity in longitudinal databases.

Less than two months later, two CASEL states (Tennessee and Georgia) have already withdrawn from the initiative. Parents have begun to realize the dangers of SEL and to challenge their schools’ robotic march toward psychological manipulation of children. Interestingly, CASEL has removed the list of other states involved (California, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, Pennsylvania, and Washington) from its altered website about the project. Either it’s embarrassed at losing 25% of its cohort or trying to hide from further parental opposition, or both.

Undeterred, CASEL presses forward. The group joined the liberal Aspen Institute’s new National Commission on Social, Emotional, and Academic Development, led by CASEL board member Linda Darling-Hammond (the radical education professor whom terrorist Bill Ayers recommended to be Obama’s Secretary of Education). This commission is funded by the same gallery of rogues – including the ubiquitous Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation — that have funded the pro-Common Core, pro-progressive education schemes of recent history.

The American Institutes for Research (AIR), publisher of many state Common Core tests and key SEL proponent, is also represented on the commission. AIR is also heavily involved in promoting the controversial LGBT agenda.

Parents should know about the agendas of CASEL and some of these important partnerships involved in the SEL effort.

CASEL has a definite ideological tilt. It’s funded partly by the federal government’s Institute for Education Sciences — the same agency that wants to assess mindsets in the National Assessment of Educational Progress and to have social emotional research become a federal mandate — and partly by a range of liberal foundations. These foundations promote socialized healthcare and bemoan the effect of climate change on “health and equity” (Robert Wood Johnson);  push Buddhist “mindfulness” techniques (1440); and seek to use SEL to promote social-justice theories and transgenderism (NoVo).

How might CASEL use SEL to advance its partners’ agendas in areas such as healthcare, climate regulation, and sexual politics? This Cleveland eighth-grade standard referenced on the CASEL website creates gender confusion by asking students to “[i]dentify what you like about yourself, including things that might be considered atypical for your gender.” Sample lessons offered by a CASEL partner called Morningside Center for Teaching Social Responsibility teach students the perils of climate change and fracking and encourage students to “take action toward transgender equity.” Thus does CASEL’s SEL accomplish its partners’ desires to change the world.

The criteria for SEL are so subjective that ideologues can twist them into almost anything. Suppose SEL curricula and guidelines adopted the argument of some psychiatrists that “extreme racism” and “extreme homophobia” should be classified as mental disorders. Could students then be “diagnosed” for those disorders, and perhaps treated with dangerous antipsychotics, as California prisoners have been?  Already children have been screened without consent  and forcibly treated with these drugs as a result of school-related mental-health programs. How far will this go?

At the very least, parents might object if SEL is used to turn their children into worker bees for the global economy. Former Michigan Governor John Engler, now chairman of the Business Roundtable (BRT), co-chairs the National SEL Commission.  BRT has long promoted Common Core, SEL skills development, and treating children as widgets in the labor-supply chain.  In fact, BRT’s education and workforce committee chairman was Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson, who called American students “defective products” if not taught by Common Core, and whose  corporation is a major funder of the data-mining, including SEL data, of the Data Quality Campaign. (We’ve provided an abundance of evidence of the coordinated effort  by these business, government, and foundation entities to assess, record, and analyze personal characteristics of children.) When Hillary Clinton and Marc Tucker’s Goals 2000 and School-to-Work first made SEL part of the federal education lexicon for workforce-development, BRT was cheering them on.

SEL is the embodiment of what government schools should not be doing to children. Parents and other citizens must stand against this tyranny of the mind by vigorously opposing these programs, refusing to elect leaders that support them, and demanding that legislators defund them.

Karen R. Effrem, MD

Dr. Karen Effrem and her husband have three children. She is trained as a pediatrician and serves as national education issues chairman for Eagle Forum and president of Education Liberty Watch.

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