Mission America

Christian Commentary on the Culture

Kids Indoctrinated with 'Social Emotional Learning'

Schools are ground zero for trendy experiments. How many can we name from the past few decades? Whole language, new math, anti-bullying programs, multicultural education, values modification, workforce development, Common Core -- the list goes on.

And virtually all of sex education has been a colossal failure, except for the common sense “abstinence only” approach.

But liberal educators never give up devising new plans to mess with the minds and hearts of children, and another one has emerged as a particular concern.

It’s “social emotional learning (SEL),” a plan so personally-invasive that schools can gain access to every aspect of a child’s life and development -- acting as a virtual parent—even without parental consent. 

But SEL’s popularity and reach is moving so quickly that it is now measured by some standardized tests and mandated by education bureaucrats.

And not surprisingly, sexualizing children and training them to accept propaganda and “group think” are often features of highly-subjective SEL training, with many radical activist groups lurking in its shadows.

An important conference is being held next week (September 26) in Bloomington, MN, by the Child Protection League (CPL), thoroughly examining social emotional learning. Experts tracking this trend and “safe schools” programs will be making presentations at “Hijacking Their Minds: How ‘safe schools’ and social emotional learning (SEL) indoctrinate our children.”

Julie Quist of CPL said this about the speakers and objectives of this conference:

Stella Morabito brings an urgent message for our time. Children (and adults) today are being forced to say what they know is not true (‘preferred pronouns’ for gender non-conforming students), and prohibited from speaking what they know is true. The state is seeking to control and regulate our very ability to think and to communicate. Morabito calls it ‘coercive thought reform.’ Dr. Karen Effrem will show how Social Emotional Learning is a vehicle.”

SEL behavior-shaping programs are well underway in many states, among them California, Connecticut, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Kansas, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, Nevada, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Vermont, West Virginia and Washington.

Others are tiptoeing into this controversial arena. “Core competencies” like self-management, social awareness and responsible decision-making seek to mold the “whole child.” But experts like Dr. Karen Effrem as well as parents who’ve seen all this before have concerns. Dr. Effrem even says SEL turns overburdened, untrained teachers into mental health therapists who may label children inappropriately, even using political biases to do so.

Some believe this is essentially mental health counseling with or without parent involvement, and with students scored as to how well or poorly they adopt the desired attitudes.

And when you look at the groups sponsoring some SEL teacher training, there are big red flags. Planned Parenthood is often listed as a reference in SEL materials. And GLSEN (the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network), PFLAG and the Transgender Political Coalition show up as sponsors at an SEL teacher conference next June in Nashville.

Do we really want schools shaping children’s emotions or their “ethical decisions”? These are often the same schools that open girls’ locker rooms to anatomical males, and refuse to call children “boys and girls,” but instead instruct teachers to sort students by meaningless designations like “peanut butter and jelly” or “chips and salsa.” Behavioral counseling is being done by these people?

Parents might have something to say about “emotional training” of their children. What standards are being used? Are moral values being taught and if so, which ones? Who is the ultimate authority—schools? Government? God? Probably not. Are faith traditions even respected at all?

And—are records being kept on my child without my consent? The answer in some cases seems to be, yes.

The question surely on most of your minds, is this just one more way for far-left social agendas to be embedded in school curricula?

Without a doubt. Among the “core competencies” outlined are “relationship skills” and “self-awareness” which may include “appreciating diversity.” Ethical responsibility and social engagement are also emphasized. Yet by whose definition? 

If a student believes (correctly) that homosexual behavior is morally wrong and that humans are never “born in the wrong sex body,” might not that student be privately given black marks for being anti-social or even “bigoted”? Would such records follow a child from school to school, even noted on college entrance recommendations?

And SEL is specifically tied to contraceptive/promiscuity- enabling sex education programs, with “abstinence until marriage” sex education specifically smeared as not a fit with SEL, because it’s…wait for it…”manipulative.”

The irony is laughable.

The job of schools is to teach foundational skills like reading, literature, math and science. Why can’t educators just stick to their own “core competencies,” and do them well? To be fair, there are some purported goals of SEL that could produce positive outcomes, like learning respect, empathy, perseverance, long-term planning and delayed gratification.

But it all depends on what value system is applied, and these traits can all be developed as the natural by-products of strong academic initiative. They will inevitably be loaded with psychological assessment if approached in isolation from core subjects.

Most parents would like to manage this at home, thank you very much.

To be fair, certainly there are school districts, particularly in urban areas, where parental involvement with their children is woefully inadequate and educators are tempted to fill in for dysfunctional parents.

But this is treacherous ground. Government should never try to replace families (can we spell “f-a-s-c-i-s-m”?). Family bonds need to be reinforced for the long-term benefit of children and communities.

There’s another motivation, of course--weird agendas among educators (anti-Christian, “LGBTQ equality” feminism, social justice, etc.). And there are also ambitious educators anxious to be on the cutting edge of innovation, or seem to be. And who cares if children are helped or harmed?

By the time the damage shows up, these people will be long gone and unavailable.

If SEL shows up in your school, fight it. Or even better—remove your children.