Jan 25, 2019

The National Pulse – 6 Big Problems with Latest “Social Emotional Learning” Report

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This National Pulse article written by Dr. Karen Effrem outlines what makes the Aspen Institute’s National Commission on Social, Emotional, and Academic Development’s new report on the use of social emotional learning in public education problematic. More specifically, how the report failed to complete fundamental and controversial issues with the teaching method such as invasion of privacy, federal overreach, etc…

1.) The Commission promotes the care and development of the “whole child” as an individual while simultaneously pushing standardized SEL teaching and assessment via “state standards, guidance, and frameworks” and the trend toward machine based skills training (including SEL training and assessment) via competency-based and personalized learning.

This is an oxymoron. If there are at least nine different names for SEL and schools are supposed to help children grow into their best individual selves, than how can there be SEL standards at all? The answer lies in the career focus of SEL.

2.) The Commission wants to expand SEL research, despite the lack of scientific and policy consensus on a definition of SEL and the existence of many SEL studies that have flaws and mixed or negative results.

We have discussed this aspect a number of times (see here and here for example). Even proponents and SEL experts admit there are problems with the research. This includes research on the academic achievement, brain science, and genetics aspects of SEL to name a few. In many ways, it is like the research on preschool described above or that of psychiatric drugs. There are grand claims initially for these programs or products, but with time and further scrutiny, the claims fall apart like wet tissue paper.

3.) The final report only contains two token mentions of privacy, which is gravely endangered by the SEL and the ed-tech phenomena.

The rate and extent of social emotional data collection — via federal assessments like the NAEP and federally mandated state assessments, education technology companies like Knewton and Dream Box that are collecting millions of data points per student per day, and foreign entities like OECD and China — is becoming difficult to follow. That is why the gutting of the federal privacy law, FERPA, during the Obama administration and the recent passage of FEPA that will create a de facto national database is all the more maddening.

4.) The Commission believes that there will be no federal control or interference for states and districts implementing SEL — even while one of their interim reports lists scores of federal programs supporting those concepts.

No kidding. After the Commission policy brief lists 111 different federal programs in 8 different federal agencies, plus the Corporation for National and Public Service that can be “leveraged” to achieve their SEL nirvana, Commission co-chairman Tim Shriver and putative conservative Rick Hess of the American Enterprise Institute solemnly intone that the report “should not be mistaken for an invitation to federal policymakers” to get involved in SEL.

5.) The Commission believes that somehow teachers can and will want to “develop expertise in child development and in the science of learning” with all of their other burdens, when there is no clear consensus on the science of SEL and in the midst of national teacher shortage.

Wonderful, experienced teachers are leaving the profession in droves because they are forced to teach the academically inferior, developmentally inappropriate, and psychologically manipulative Common Core while they are monitored on everything they teach via poorly validated tests that affect their pay and tenure via incomprehensible algorithms, have their desired curriculum removed from their classrooms, and are required to act as amateur psychologists in order to prevent school shootings and suicide.

6.) The Commission expects that SEL programs and curriculum will fill the cavernous social emotional void for the millions of children growing up in fatherless homes.

The statistics are overwhelming that children — especially boys — from fatherless homes have more SEL problems. Examples include:

Significantly higher juvenile crime rates

279 percent increased likelihood of carrying a gun

Externalizing behavior problems as early as one year of age

The full article can be found here on The National Pulse’s website.

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