by Karen R. Effrem, MD
It is getting very hard to keep up with all of the ways social emotional learning (SEL) is infiltrating education in America and how the SEL data collection is expanding throughout all grade levels, frequently without parental consent. Here is a brief review:
Proponents are trying to tell us that there is a lot of research to lend support to these efforts:
The extent and level of sophistication of this SEL and psychograhic profiling on our children continues to expand. According to The Chronicle of Higher Education, colleges and universities are “Measuring Clicks, Emotions, and Brain Waves: [as] Student Recruitment Keeps Evolving.” Here are some of the creepy experiments that consulting firms are using to find ways to help colleges increase enrollment:
There are, of course many problems with these types of efforts, experiments and research. The experts continue to disagree on the definition of SEL, which makes it hard to measure. For example, the authors of a major journal volume in “The Future of Children” by the Brookings Institution said:
To create SEL standards and assess progress toward those standards presupposes that we agree about what SEL is. Yet neither researchers nor practitioners nor policymakers have come to such a consensus.
Closely related to that is the near universal admission by SEL researchers that there are no or very few good SEL assessments. Here are some examples:
The third broken link in the SEL credibility chain is that these same experts also admit that their studies are not that great, or even if there are positive results, they admit they do not know what elements of SEL produced those results. The Oregon researcher said:
“We know these skills are essential for children, but there’s still a lot we don’t know about ways to enhance them,” said Megan McClelland, the Katherine E. Smith Healthy Children and Families Professor in Human Development and Family Sciences in OSU’s College of Public Health and Human Sciences. “The results to date have been mixed. We don’t yet know what the ‘key ingredients’ are here. [Emphasis added]
This obviously makes it very hard to believe what these people are saying, especially when there are profit motives for corporations or testing companies like the ACT group discussed above.
It is also disturbing that overburdened teachers are forced to become psychologists and gather this sensitive data on your children, especially without parental knowledge or consent. There is already a history of erroneous diagnoses and forced medication related to this.
And what about the whole issue data privacy that can affect your child’s future college attendance, employment or military service? Although the experiments described above on high school students were voluntary, imagine what would happen if that kind of data were added by the Commissioner of Education Statistics to the types of data collected under the proposed College Transparency Act that lifts the prohibition on collection of longitudinal data on students after college and into the workforce. Because this is happening under the auspices of education, and not in medical settings, personally identifiable data can and will be shared with third parties without consent.
Parents across the nation banded together to stop SETRA. We must continue this vigilance to protect the hearts, minds, privacy and futures of our children. In addition, we must proactively protect privacy at the state and federal levels. Stay tuned for ways you can help.