Karen R. Effrem, MD – President
Congratulations to the education freedom activists and legislators in Tennessee for standing up to social emotional learning (SEL) national heavyweight, CASEL (Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning). Federally and foundation funded CASEL is trying to impose these subjective, indoctrinating SEL standards via grants in eight states, including Tennessee. The others are California, Georgia, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, Pennsylvania, and Washington.
“Consider ethical, safety, and societal factors in making decisions.”
The Tennessee Department of Education (TNDOE) said in its presentation that the five competencies that would be taught are: 1) Responsible Decision Making 2) Relationship Skills 3) Social Awareness 4) Self-Awareness 5) Self-Management. These are essentially the same ones mandated in Illinois.
How, does a student, especially a young child, “consider ethical…factors in making decisions” when adults that are supposed to be role models are not doing so? For example, some physicians are shirking their ethical duty to protect the health and emotions of gender-confused children by prescribing dangerous, life-altering hormone treatments at the drop of a hat when a child declares a transgender identity, despite overwhelming research (also HERE) showing more than 80% of these adolescents revert back to an identity corresponding to their biological sex at birth, and the suicide rate among those who complete the transition to the opposite sex is very high.
TNDOE also said that these SEL standards would be integrated into every area of learning, but then claimed there would be no assessment and no student data collection. It is nice to see that they may be listening to the main concerns, even if only in an effort to deflect them, from many organizations and parents across the nation. However, research from Joy Pullman of the Heartland Institute, Jane Robbins and Emmett McGroarty of the American Principles Project, and Shane Vander Hart of Truth in American Education as well as from us here at Education Liberty Watch and our related organization, The Florida Stop Common Core Coalition, make that highly unlikely if not impossible to believe. SEL with affective data mining is the Holy Grail for Common Core, for corporations seeking a compliant workforce, and for government busy-bodies. Here is an example of another prominent group besides CASEL pushing SEL via Common Core:
ASCA [American School Counselors Association] – “Mindsets & Behaviors align with specific standards from the Common Core State Standards through connections at the competency level.”
As all of these documents show, social emotional standards are highly subjective and dangerous to freedom of thought and conscience, as well as privacy. They also perpetuate the false notion that it is the government schools’ responsibility to inculcate these values in place of parents and religious institutions; allow for indoctrination on controversial non-academic issues; and place more emphasis on job skills than on academics.
Many thanks to the Family Action Council of Tennessee (FACTN), Tennessee Eagle Forum (TNEF) and Tennessee Against Common Core for standing up to protect the families of Tennessee in this matter. All three groups alerted their members and warned legislators. Here is part of a podcast from FACTN:
This initiative is a potential Trojan Horse for social engineering in our schools. If we do not take action and contact our legislators, our children may be taught values at school that conflict with values being taught at home.
TNEF alerted its members with this information from the EdWeek article about the multistate effort and its many problems (problems admitted even by this very pro-government and Gates Foundation-funded education publication):
What about that tricky issue of measuring social-emotional learning? The controversial approach has been heavily discussed lately because the Every Student Succeeds Act, or ESSA, requires states to add an “additional indicator” to their school accountability systems in addition to traditional factors, like student test scores…But many prominent researchers have questioned the validity of self-reported student surveys, which are most commonly used to measure SEL. And some have said it’s problematic to use those surveys for high-stakes accountability purposes.
Tennessee Against Common Core also sent out an important and helpful alert.
The legislators involved also showed keen discernment about this problematic endeavor. It was clear from the legislative hearing (beginning at 1:42:12) that the elected officials were very concerned about these on a number of levels, the most obvious from the hearing being national/federal interference in the education system of a sovereign state. Parents’ rights, cost, overcrowding of an already packed school schedule, and burden on teachers were other important concerns raised.
All of these combined to show TNDOE that there was little appetite in that state for this effort. Here is the letter from the executive director of Tennessee’s Office of Safe and Supportive Schools, Pat Connor, as documented by TNEF containing the bureaucratically disguised cry of “Uncle!” (emphasis added):
The previously scheduled meeting for Thursday has been postponed. We will reach out soon with a new date for our first meeting.
The work around social and personal competencies is vital to Tennessee students’ readiness for the workforce. Thus, it is critical to align this work with other state goals around workforce readiness. Due to the time required to ensure this alignment, we cannot meet the timeline set forth by CASEL. As a result, we will not be able to be a part of the Collaborative States Initiative. However, based on the feedback we continue to hear about the need to support teachers in meeting the non-academic needs of all students, we will continue to independently develop Tennessee social and personal competencies. These competencies will be optional and will not be assessed.
We are excited about this continuing work and will have internal dates and agendas forthcoming. In addition, opportunities for external stakeholder engagement will be announced soon.
Pat Conner | Executive Director – Office of Safe & Supportive Schools
This is a very encouraging development and Tennessee activists and legislators deserve much credit and congratulations. This success will be helpful and inspiring to the other states targeted by CASEL. As mentioned in its email, however, the TNDOE still plans to pursue psychological indoctrination and profiling of the state’s children in service of “workforce readiness.” As was also pointed out by Bobbie Patray, president of TNEF in her newsletter, constant vigilance as well as strong parental action is still needed because of the SEL teaching materials already developed, such as the TNDOE document titled “Incorporating Social and Emotional Learning Into Classroom Instruction and Educator Effectiveness: A Toolkit for Tennessee Teachers and Administrators.”
Let us celebrate this victory in a battle, but continue the fight of the long war. Stay tuned for more updates. As Thomas Jefferson, author of the Declaration of Independence, so wisely said, “Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.” Thank you for all you do to protect the hearts and minds of our children! And to CASEL, we say, “Game on!”
Jane Robbins, attorney and senior fellow for the American Principles Project and Shane Vander Hart at Truth in American Education, have both written excellent columns about the dangers of the next big edu fad – social emotional learning standards. Eight states are working with CASEL to adopt them. These are California, Georgia, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, and Washington.
We have long written about the dangerous loss of freedom of conscience and privacy inherent in social emotional research and data gathering via the allegedly academic Common Core aligned tests that are being amplified in the Every Student Succeeds Act’s accountability paradigm. Mrs. Robbins was kind enough to cite Dr. Effrem’s research paper on this topic. Here is an excerpt:
When non-psychologists dabble in these murky waters, the result is tremendously subjective analyses of what a child is thinking or feeling as opposed to what the government thinks he should be thinking or feeling. Dr. Karen Effrem, who has researched and written extensively about the issue of SEL, warns about the subjectivity of this kind of analysis, particularly with young children.
Even prominent SEL proponents caution that assessing students on SEL standards, especially with the common mechanism of student surveys, can be a shot in the dark. Researchers Angela Duckworth and David Yeager have said that “perfectly unbiased, unfakeable, and error-free measures are an ideal, not a reality.” [Read the whole column titled: The Latest Big Education Fad, Social-Emotional Learning, Is As Bad As It Sounds]
CASEL or the Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning receives major taxpayer funded grants. Their website says they received funding from the Institute for Education Sciencesthat is also pushing the social emotional research and profiling on students via the Strengthening Education Through Research Act (SETRA):
Goal number one of Goals 2000 says, “All children will start school ready to learn.” As we have documented, this mandate, disguised as a goal, has given rise to the metastatic growth of early childhood programs across the country. In these programs, “ready to learn” has little or nothing to do with preparing young children to learn academic subjects and much to do with indoctrination of our very youngest and most vulnerable children in the most radical of ideologies. Even if accepted by some parents, it is completely wrong to teach ideology to three, four and five year old children. The ideas being promoted include: earth worshiping environmentalism, radical feminism, engendering fear and hatred of our military, and acceptance of homosexuality. It is these principles that are taught to young children and considered part of “social and emotional” development.
Social and emotional development is a large part of another mandate within Goals 2000. Goal eight says, “Every school will promote partnerships that will increase parental involvement and participation in promoting the social, emotional, and academic growth of children.” Notice that academic growth is the lowest priority on that list. That relegation of academics to such a low priority has resulted in an emphasis on work based and service learning out of the classroom, group projects, whole language, fuzzy math, and civics that undermine the principles of freedom within the Declaration of Independence.
It is critical that we as parents fight to protect the hearts and minds of our precious children from this growing threat to their privacy and freedom of thought. We must reject this overt indoctrination of our children and demand an end to psychological data mining inherent in Common Core based teaching, tests, data mining, and competency based education.
A Florida public school teacher was suspended and then resigned after giving the following “White Privilege” survey in Spanish class that asked questions about sexual orientation, gender identity, religion, and disability status:
The US House Education and Workforce Committee recently held a hearing titled “Strengthening Education Research and Privacy Protections to Better Serve Students.” Although there were some great positives such as hearing from a parent from the organization that took down inBloom, The Parent Coalition for Student Privacy, there was an alarmingly pervasive attitude that student data belonged to the government and researchers and that parent concerns about privacy are over blown. What follows is the introduction, a summary of the pros and cons from the hearing, our conclusions and recommendations from our extensively referenced document written by our president, Dr. Karen Effrem – Response to US House Privacy and Research Hearing. A summary of this document is available HERE.
We are grateful that the committee convened the very important recent hearing, “Strengthening Education Research and Privacy Protections to Better Serve Students, and for the opportunity to comment on it. With the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act being 40 years old; the Strengthening Research Through Education Act (SETRA) continuing dossier building via state longitudinal databases; and the expanded efforts to psychologically manipulate and profile our children via social emotional and mindset assessments in standards, curriculum and tests; it is extremely important that these bills be updated. Government data gathering on our innocent children must be very significantly pared back in content and kept to the local level and privacy protections strengthened. It is not just the data security that is an issue, but the type and amount of data that is gathered.
It is wonderful that Rachel Stickland from The Parent Coalition for Student Privacy, an organization that receives no government or special interest funding, founded and composed of parents, which brought down the Bill Gates multi-million dollar inBloom operation, was able to testify. Ms. Stickland did an excellent job given that she was defending herself and parents from three other Big Data witnesses. (See NEGATIVES below).
Some of the questions by members seemed to indicate a good understanding about the dangers of the extensive student data collection taking place and took parental concerns on that topic seriously, particularly Mrs. Foxx, Mr. Thompson, Mr. Brat, and Ms. Bonamici.
Ms. Stickland’s description of the State Longitudinal Data System (SLDS) was excellent and correct, especially the part about the result of this longitudinal data collection resulting in dossiers from birth. This includes genetic data at least in Rhode Island. I would just add that although the funding push for SLDS occurred during the stimulus bill, in a separate provision, in the Race to the Top grants, and in the America COMPETES Act, they were codified in ESRA in 2002 and continue in SETRA, which is why the data transparency language she mentioned is so critical for both SETRA and FERPA. If, as Dr. Hannaway mentioned, it is really true that the data is completely anonymized, this should not be a problem.
This question by Mr. Heck and Ms. Sticklands’s response as reported by Politico:
“He asked whether Common Core has ‘required new depths of data mining’ of students. ‘I’ve heard the same concerns from parents across the country,’ said Rachael Stickland, Parent Coalition for Student Privacy co-founder and co-chairwoman. ‘There’s a lot of new measurements of student achievement that doesn’t necessarily have academic purposes – grit and tenacity and those sorts of things, the sort of emotional factors. There are a lot of parents who are very, very concerned about this.’”
This is not just a concern, but absolute fact, and we applaud her for saying so. There is much evidence that non -academic social emotional teaching is being promoted through Common Core standards which means that there is psychological data gathering happening in the federally mandated mostly Common Core state tests.
NEGATIVES AND MISSED OPPORTUNITIES:
We believe that student privacy and parental consent should always be considered pre-eminent compared to the research desires of the government or private sector, especially in the realm of psychological profiling.
The government has no constitutional, statutory, or moral right to collect data on highly personal and sensitive socioemotional data on our children.
According to data presented to this committee by the Cato Institute several years ago, federal involvement in education has yielded either stagnant or declining academic performance:
The vast majority of federal education programs are unconstitutional because the entire US Department of Education is unconstitutional, meaning that most of these programs should be eliminated with any remaining that can be shown to be effective and constitutional programs being block granted to the states.
Many studies showing the ineffectiveness and or harm of current government education and child social programs and the effectiveness of two parent family structure and other non-government academic and social measures are ignored raising the question of why we need so much research in the first place.
Remove the social emotional research language from Section 132 of SETRA.
Prohibit social emotional data gathering and the use of data for predictive testing in the FERPA reauthorization.
Put in strict data transparency language and update the data security language per the recommendations of technical experts like Dr. Joel Reidenberg or Barmak Nassirian in any FERPA reauthorization.
Require third party software and testing vendors to notify parents of what data is collected on students and how it is used.
Find a way for students whose identity and privacy is compromised to be compensated, not just researchers or private vendors to be penalized.
Close the curriculum and assessment loophole for invasive surveys in PPRA.
Immediately demand that the US Department of Education repair the federal data security failures found in the Inspector General’s recent report and uncovered by the House Oversight Committee.
Strongly consider a moratorium on further federal research until programs already shown to ineffective and harmful are transformed or eliminated and until actually effective measures are actually implemented.
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