Op-ed: SEL is ‘class warfare some want warring in classrooms,’ contrary to the claims of EdWeek and others

In a recent piece by Education Week categorized under “leadership,” the authors disguised what was, in fact, an editorial, as in-depth reporting on social, emotional learning (SEL) in the state…

In a recent piece by Education Week categorized under “leadership,” the authors disguised what was, in fact, an editorial, as in-depth reporting on social, emotional learning (SEL) in the state of Missouri.

In the process, they distorted what remains a legitimate public policy debate nationwide about the merits of SEL and the role, if any, SEL should have in public school curriculums.

“Missouri’s situation illustrates the awkward place that educators and policymakers continue to find themselves in as SEL has simultaneously received historic levels of pushback and investment in the past two years,” wrote Arianna Prothero, an assistant editor for EdWeek, and Libby Stanford, a reporter.

Then they added, deceptively, “It also underscores how confusion among the general public over what, exactly, SEL is can undermine efforts to expand it in schools.”  

Let’s be clear about one thing from the outset: It’s not confusion over what SEL is exactly that’s undermining the efforts to expand it in schools, despite historic investment in the controversial curriculum. 

What is exactly undermining efforts to expand SEL in school is the horror that the public and parents feel when they understand exactly what SEL actually is. 

EdWeek would have one believe that SEL is simply teaching kids what the publication calls “soft skills,” like good manners or positive thinking. 

Getting past the debate about the legitimacy of teaching such things during a limited academic day – as public schools continue to demonstrate historic levels of ineptitude when it comes to academic achievement – EdWeek’s assertions about what SEL actually is are also patently false. 

“While sounding innocuous, the Social Emotional Learning framework actually encompasses the far-left belief that each child is nothing more than a member of an oppressed class, or the oppressor themselves,” said Missouri neighbor, Dan Isett, a spokesperson for the Oklahoma Department of Education in a statement, as reported by the Oklahoma Voice. “This is simply inappropriate, and wrong.” 

But don’t take his word for it.  

Consider the description from an organization cited in EdWeek’s own article. 

“SEL advances educational equity [emphasis added] and excellence through authentic school-family-community partnerships to establish learning environments and experiences that feature trusting and collaborative relationships, rigorous and meaningful curriculum and instruction, and ongoing evaluation,” writes the Collaborative for Academic and Social-Emotional Learning (CASEL), in its fundamental definition of SEL. “SEL can help address various forms of inequity [emphasis added] and empower [emphasis added] young people and adults to co-create thriving schools and contribute to safe, healthy, and just [emphasis added] communities.” 

That sounds quite a bit different than managing emotions in a positive manner while kids pass each other in the hallway, as EdWeek would have one believe about the virtues of SEL. 

Of course, EdWeek’s article didn’t mention much of CASEL’s program in its piece on Missouri, except for simply noting that the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated “inequity” in schools.    

Quite frankly, CASEL openly admits that SEL is simply teaching about power, equity, and how those who are oppressed by virtue of the color of their skin, sexual identity, socioeconomic class, or any other class, can fight back. 

If people are being honest, the phrase “various forms of inequity”, used by CASEL, is coded progressive-speak for things like “white supremacy,” “the patriarchy,” the “intersectionality” of sexual oppression by the dominant heterosexual majority, and any other thing that can be used to divide and conquer us. 

Parents, voters, taxpayers and the general public are horrified by these concepts.  

SEL, it turns out, is everything that critics accuse it of being, namely: A Marxist/socialist program that categorizes people into the oppressed and the oppressors and undermines our ideas of a representative, democratic republic.  

SEL has simply updated obsolete Marxist terms like proletariat and bourgeoisie, with more fashionable terms like equity, inequity and justice. 

If one wants to advocate for SEL, they have the freedom to do so and they should do so in this representative, democratic republic. 

But, please: Stop trying to tell the rest of us that SEL is not what we think it is.  

Because SEL is exactly what we know it is: class warfare some want warring in classrooms – and everywhere else.