BOSTON – Social-emotional learning (SEL) has been billed as a transformational tool that will propel students to greater academic achievement and personal fulfillment. Unfortunately, as a new Pioneer Institute study makes clear, the research evidence to back up these claims is thin and unpersuasive. Moreover, the risks SEL poses to student privacy and health are significant.
Proponents of SEL call for focusing less on academic content and knowledge in schools, and more on student attributes, mindsets, values, and behaviors. Not only are the goals of SEL ill-defined, but they also raise significant, unanswered questions about what attitudes should be promoted.
“It’s one thing to direct your own moral, ethical, and emotional development or that of your children,” said Jane Robbins, co-author of “Social-Emotional Learning: K-12 Education as New-Age Nanny State.” “But having a government vendor or unqualified public school officials implement an SEL curriculum based on coffee-table psychology is quite another.”
Educational software developers purport to have created products that can determine a number of sensitive personality traits through students’ interaction with digital platforms. Much of this monitoring occurs without the consent of children or their parents. Some software — especially for video gaming — goes beyond assessing traits, and aims to encourage the production of students who are well suited for a workforce development-centered education.
“This technology, when coupled with SEL, will further spread the recent wave of amateur, unqualified psychoanalysis in schools,” said Dr. Karen Effrem, M.D., who co-authored the study with Robbins. “Given the uncertainty around diagnosis and treatment of mental or emotional problems, even by highly trained physicians, the SEL movement runs the risk of further increasing the trend toward dangerous over-diagnosis and over-medication of American schoolchildren.”
The more government the more our children are acting like the robots that will be taking their jobs when they grow to adulthood. School shooting incidents will be more prolific as our children are taught that the government can make all the decisions for them.