(The Center Square) – Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne is offering a grant to schools that take up an alternative to the controversial education practice known as social and emotional learning.
Horne is asking schools to instead try a program called The Six Pillars of Character, which was developed by Drake University that emphasizes six traits that they want students to adopt. An application for public and charter schools for the grant will open on March 1, according to the statement.
“When I was last Superintendent, from 2003 to 2011, we successfully implemented The Six Pillars of Character: trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, fairness, caring, and good citizenship,” Horne said in the statement on Tuesday.
“We had a six pillars band that I played in. Unlike social and emotional learning, which has been a distraction from academics, this program was integrated into education such as students writing essays on each of the pillars. As we renew the focus on academics, it could provide an important balance to our students’ education,” he continued.
Drake University’s Robert D. and Billie Ray Center Executive Director Scott Raecker said this program provides a great way to promote a healthy school climate. While a part of the Character Counts program overall is technically social-emotional learning, or SEL, many forms of the practice are criticized for having too much of an emphasis on students’ feelings as opposed to educational instruction.
“We are proud to partner with the Arizona Department of Education to positively impact schools through The Six Pillars of Character”, said J. Scott Raecker, Executive Director at the Center. “By prioritizing character development and positive school culture, PK-12 schools can see improvement in students’ character and academic skills, and ensure their school is a safe and welcoming learning environment.”
Horne has vowed to make numerous changes to the state’s education system since taking office. He flipped the office back to Republicans in a tight race, as Democrat Kathy Hoffman held the position from 2019 till early January.