The National Pulse

Why Ohio Should Reject “Social Emotional Learning” Standards

A committee of the Ohio State Board of Education is scheduled to vote on advancing a proposal to the full state board to implement statewide social emotional learning (SEL) standards this coming Tuesday, May 14th. This is part of a national movement to psychologize education, falsely advertised as improving academic achievement and preventing violence and suicide.

The problems with this approach are myriad. They include the following points (with more information available from the Pioneer Institute, as well as this list of concerns for Ohio and numerous writings in this space, such as here):

  • SEL would further erode the fundamental right of parents to control the education and upbringing of their children due to unjustified expansion of the schools beyond their basic mission of academics.
  • Some SEL assessments and lessons promote highly controversial topics that, regardless of one’s view of them, ought to be up to parents to decide how to discuss and present to their children.
  • Even proponents of SEL have admitted there is a lack of consensus in defining it and multiple flaws in the research, with mixed or negative evidence of academic improvement.
  • The teaching and assessing of SEL by untrained or minimally trained, already overburdened school personnel, as well as the linking of SEL to violence and suicide prevention via mental-health screening, can lead to many problems such as biased or inaccurate assessment based on subjective criteria, improper referrals, diagnosis and over-treatment with potentially harmful medications.
  • Experts have admitted and research has shown that over-medication has occurred in the most vulnerable populations, including foster children and minorities.
  • There are strong linkages between SEL and Common Core, as well as between SEL and competency-based education/personalized learning that further dilute the promised rigor of Common Core and nudge/force children into career paths not of their choosing.
  • Competency-based education and the education technology on which it is based, like SEL and Common Core, has little to no evidence of improved academic achievement and severely damages student-teacher interaction.
  • If SEL is about meeting the individual needs of the “whole child” and the Department of Education claims this will be implemented according to the individual needs of the school districts, why is there a need for statewide SEL standards?
  • If there is no reliable way to assess SEL standards, as admitted by experts such as “Grit Guru” Dr. Angela Duckworth, and the Aspen National Commission on SEL strongly recommends against assessing students and teachers on these subjective standards, then why have them?
  • If SEL’s definition, assessments, and research are all questionable, and experts admit no evidence of cost effectiveness, should Ohio be spending its state’s share of what national proponent groups have estimated to be $30 billion on SEL in this time of tight education budgets, teacher shortages, infrastructure issues, etc.?
  • The state superintendent’s budget testimony mentioned $4.2 million in federal grants related to SEL, school climate and mental health. That means Ohio will have to follow the dictates of the federal government to use these funds for SEL and will not have the flexibility to use them as state officials see fit. This is similar to issues of state sovereignty that arose with No Child Left Behind’s testing mandates and Race to the Top that required the adoption of Common Core.

If you are an Ohio resident and wish to make your voice heard on this critical topic, please consider a personalized note using arguments from this list or the other resources cited above in your email. Addresses may be found here. As we celebrate mothers and families this weekend, let us always be vigilant to guard parental rights and the hearts and minds of our children.

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.

  • As we celebrate mothers and families this weekend, let us always be vigilant to guard parental rights and the hearts and minds of our children.


    I have just written to my Ohio representative expressing my support for this measure. Karen Effrem’s nasty and dishonest propaganda was just too much for me. All kids deserve safe learning environments–even if bigoted parents want to harm minority kids. I don’t fall for her hate.

    So yes, people write to your representatives in Ohio. I did. Tell them we are better than this immoral mind games Effrem would do to our young ones.

    • Yes Karen Old Gal is obsessed with making sure LGBT students in particular endure hate in the school system. She is terrified that classes might treat people with decency! Shame. If you live in Ohio, yes, write in support of SEL. Innocent children need safe schools.

    • oh yes, yes, anyone who opposes social and emotional indoctrination is, by definition racist. We can’t all just be children of God made in HIS image. We must constantly play the race card in all areas in order to win/change the argument. Since I oppose SEL, that MUST make me a racist. Foolish little me.
      By the way, Marlena, the mind games are the very objective of SEL. You should read the Ohio Dept of Education’s own documents to better understand what this really is.

    • Just because you are “free thinking” doesn’t mean your thoughts are coherent or right.

      I am another free thinking adult and am morally repelled by Karen Old Gal’s constant badgering against making classes safe for children. I am sorry you think promoting respect is indoctrination. I am sorry you think treating ALL children with decency is indoctrination. Yes foolish you!

      No one is playing the race card. It is you who play the indoctrination card when you get confronted with your bigotry.

      Karen Old Gal is obsessed with denying children (especially LGBT children) a safe classroom. It is my Christian duty to call her out on it. Your refusal to do it say a lot about you.

    • It is just darling that you are a “Free Thinking Adult”!
      Isn’t that ducky!

      Although you have the right to think freely, it doesn’t mean your so-called “thinking” isn’t dishonest or imparied.

      Marlena didn’t call you racist. That’s a figment of your “free thinking” imagination. I have read the documents of the Ohio Dept. of Education’s SEL program and see no such thing as “indoctrination”, unless by indoctrination you mean treating kids with respect and dignity.

      That brings into question why you are so opposed to SEL’s hope to promote safe classrooms. Effrem opposes it because she hates the idea that gay children will be treated with human decency. Whose children do you hate?