Social Emotional Learning & Critical Thinking

For those new to this topic, Social Emotional Learning (SEL) is basically about instilling a set of values into school children. For more information, see two of the prior articles I’ve written about this: SEL Intro and SEL in Public Schools.

The advertised goals of SEL sound great! Who could be against the Stated Objectives of helping children to: a) Make better decisions, b) Set goals, c) Gain confidence, d) Collaborate with others in work and play, and e) Navigate the world more effectively? After all, the SEL promoters cite studies that say that these are good things! DUH…

For any such program, there are two obvious questions: WHAT? and HOW? In other words WHAT are the entire objectives that will be conveyed to our childrenand specifically HOW will they be taught (i.e. methodology)?

There appear to be three main SEL packages, and the answer to each of these questions is quite different:

Click here to view SEL OPTIONS infographic.

The promoters of SEL 1.0 do not advertise their Unstated Objectives, and they certainly do not compare the results of alternative approaches to acheiving the Stated Objectives! Let’s do a brief overview of each, and see what the takeaway is…

SEL 1.0

This is the initial version and the most common one in use today. This is what is heavily marketed by CASELSecond Step, etc.

OBJECTIVES are both the Stated Objectives, plus several Unstated Objectives. The Unstated Objectives include major elements of current progressive ideology — e.g., DEI (Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion), CRT (Critical Race Theory), and Woke. In this powerful talk, this PhD connects these objectives with Communism.

METHODOLOGY is atheismsecularism, and relativism. These are man-made (as vs God-made) standards, which are embedded in Marxism and communism. For more details, see these good explanations: herehere, and here.

An example of SEL 1.0 methodology is “group consciousness” (as compared to “individualism”). As stated well here “SEL 1.0 exercises are constructed to maximize group awareness, group decision-making, and group activities. The peer pressure for conformity to the group becomes irresistible.” Marxism and communism are about groups, while America and our Constitution, etc. are about individual rights.

Another methodology example is that SEL 1.0 works to diminish the importance of thinking and understanding. Consider this statement: “As a species, emotion is more important than understanding because, instead of our willful rationality and effortful pursuit of universal truths, we are ‘wired’ for emotion and it drives us forward — up, away, and back again countless and quiet little cycles in life.” Got that? Emotion and feelings trump knowledge and thinking!

One more methodology concern with SEL 1.0 is that it is strongly based on moral relativism. Essentially this means that there are no absolute truths (e.g., God, Ten Commandments, etc.) as truth is relative to every individual. This is an important basis for progressive ideology, and has been rightly called “The Worst Idea Ever.”

What public school system would say to parents: “We are going to downplay teaching your children critical thinking, knowledge, traditional values, etc., and instead instill in them Marxist ideology?” But that is what SEL 1.0 is. See more about this here.

Note: SEL 1.0 may violate the Education Parental Rights laws of some states. For example, North Carolina’s version gives parents the exclusive right “To direct the upbringing and moral or religious training” of their child (see § 114A-10, [2]). SEL 1.0 is likely legally in conflict with that, as SEL 1.0 provides moral training that is not only not fully disclosed, but is certainly not under the direction of parents.

SEL 2.0

There are other options than SEL 1.0! For example, the admirable Stated Objectives can be met by adherence to traditional and common US standards: Judeo-Christian values. Some examples of sources for SEL 2.0 are here and here.

OBJECTIVES are just the Stated Objectives. There are no hidden objectives.

METHODOLOGY is via Judeo-Christianity. Consider that each of the five Stated Objectives would be accomplished by close adherence to the Bible.

The best part is that this methodology would not have any of the major downsides of SEL 1.0. For example, our children would not be a faceless part of a Pied-Piper-led group. As well stated here: “Christian training encourages kids to conform to what is right, and to avoid and oppose what is wrong. They are not to go along with the world.” Further, SEL 2.0 would not be pushing DEI, CRT, Woke, or Marxism.

The fly in the ointment is that teaching Judeo-Christian values in public schools has been squelched by atheistic activists, under the guise of “separation of church and state.” What they don’t acknowledge, though, is that atheism is a religionsecularism is a religion and relativism is a religion — so why don’t the same rules apply? They do, but we’re waiting for a lawsuit to make it happen.

Note: SEL 2.0 may violate the Education Parental Rights laws of some states. For example, SEL 2.0 may be in conflict with NC’s law, as SEL 2.0 provides moral training that may not be considered to be under the direction of parents.

SEL 3.0

In the meantime, there is a clever solution to accomplish the Stated Objectives that avoids the religion minefields: properly teaching Critical Thinking. A good discussion of this is here. Also see this study that verifies this as legitimate.

OBJECTIVES are just the Stated Objectives. Again, there are no hidden objectives.

METHODOLOGY is to teach children to use and enjoy Critical Thinking. Amazingly, that will bring about every one of the five Stated Objectives!

Let’s take an example: Make better decisions. We all make thousands of decisions, big and small. It’s in our best interest — and (in most cases) society’s best interest — if we use Critical Thinking for these. For example, students should Critically Think about managing their time effectively (e.g., for homework). Doing that would directly benefit them, and indirectly benefit our society.

Considering the power of Critical Thinking, SEL 1.0 would certainly be promoting it, right? NO! They are advocating feelings over intellect, group conformity over individualism, etc. Look at their websites for “Critical Thinking” and it’s only mentioned in passing. Although it is not acknowledged, they are opposed to Critical Thinking as Critical Thinking and group conformity (SEL 1.0) are at odds.

How does Critical Thinking fit in with SEL 2.0? Since the term “Critical Thinking” did not come about for centuries after the Bible was written, you won’t find it there. However, the messages in the Bible are entirely consistent with Critical Thinking. (See here for a good discussion about this.)

Since those who believe in God are faced with the challenges of atheism, secularism, relativism, etc., etc., if they are not Critical Thinkers, they will likely become easy prey.

The bottom line is that SEL 3.0 is the most practical and least problematic way to bring about the initial five Stated Objectives, in US Public Schools. (In Catholic Schools a combination of SEL 2.0 and SEL 3.0 would be ideal.)

Note: SEL 3.0 will not likely violate Education Parental Rights state laws, as there is no religion involved in using the Critical Thinking approach.

There is one caveat though to SEL 3.0!

The Left has been aggressive in perverting everyday terminology to suit their political agendas. Be on the lookout for them to distort the concept of Critical Thinking as well. However, if you are a true Critical Thinker you will not be fooled.

PS — A good discussion: The Power of Independent Thought In A Divisive World.

Equipped with an inner compass, critical thinkers are less vulnerable to the manipulations of those trying to control narratives for their own gain. Their minds remain permeable to new data but impervious to disempowering agendas. They choose which voices to tune into, instructing their attention to amplify the insightful, while tuning out the deceptive. From this intentional space, they distill signal from noise. While powerful entities expend enormous resources trying to manipulate how people think, the critical thinker sees through these efforts. Their connection to source provides a clear window into reality.

©2023. John Droz, Jr. All rights reserved.

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