Society features

Social-emotional learning establishment seeks progressive reorganization of society

by James C. Sherlock

Social-emotional learning is based on a good idea. The underlying concept is to train adults (teachers and staff) in child psychology with the aim of shaping learning environments that optimize children’s development according to society’s norms of behavior.

To teach them how to act.

The rub: who decides the target societal standards of behavior?

Virginia’s view for SEL is published as follows:

intended to center equity in this work, which is central to VDOE’s vision and mission.

The vision of social-emotional learning in Virginia is to maximize the potential of all students and staff to become responsible, caring, and reflective members of our diverse society by advancing equity, raising student voice, and by infusing SEL into every part of the school experience.

You can understand where the educational institution is going with this. But if you can’t, they told us unequivocally.

They intend to integrate issues of race, class, and culture into academic content with the primary goal of making American children warriors for social justice; to bring down capitalism, individualism and what they call neoliberal democracy.

To get our kids to help redistribute power in America.

Not my words, theirs.

The 2020 Virginia General Assembly passed Bill 753 (Del. Rasoul (D-Roanoke) directing the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) to establish a uniform definition of SEL and develop standards It was a partisan bill, and it was only opposed by majorities of Republicans in both houses.

Virginia Social and Emotional Orientation Standards (VSEG) was issued in 2021. The link at transformer SEL is contained on page one from the Preface:

SEL can also be leveraged to create equitable learning environments and support healthy development for all children, adolescents, and adults.

We’ll see what VDOE meant by ‘equitable learning environments’ and ‘healthy development’ by following where reference because this paragraph guides us.

Remember, this is not a charge. I offer below a recitation of the transformative SEL that the Northam VDOE has publicly adopted.

CASEL. To guide you on the path to social-emotional learning, the Virginia Department of Education has from the beginning deferred at the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL).

CASEL is the North Star for all things SEL on the VDOE Web page. Looked. The Northam VDOE was captive of CASEL. I suspect that CASEL still represents the views of key VDOE staff.

SEL transformer. CASEL from at least 2018 has transformed SEL into “SEL Transformer” shamelessly transforming a captive audience of school children into social warriors. They did this long before the Virginia standards were released in 2021.

The authors of the article quoted on the front page of VSEGS are CASEL staff. They

focus on issues of race/ethnicity as a first step towards addressing the wider range of existing inequalities.

The article makes the argument:

this education (was) aimed at promoting personally responsible citizenship and the consequent individualism, consumerism and passivity dovetailed with a dominant neoliberal democracy; it is the dominant model.

However, a critical democracy requires that education be aimed at collectivism, productive interactionism and authentic engagement.

For a glossary of terms from the last paragraph above, go here.

I’ll give you a head start.

Collectivism [kəˈlektəˌvizəm] NAME
the practice or principle of prioritizing a group over each individual. synonyms: state property · socialism · radical socialism · sovietism · bolshevism · marxism · neo-marxism · leninism · marxism-leninism · trotskyism · maoism.

Collectivismone of the many types of social organization in which the individual is considered subordinate to a social collectivity as a state, nation, race or social class.

Make your choice.

We will go to CASEL for the formal definition transformer SEL:

“Transformative SEL” is a process by which young people and adults build strong, respectful and lasting relationships that facilitate co-learning to critically examine the root causes of inequity and develop collaborative solutions that lead to personal, community and societal well-being.

This form of SEL aims to redistribute power to involve youth and adults more in creating just and equitable schools and communities.. It emphasizes the development of identity, agency, belonging, curiosity, and collaborative problem solving within the CASEL framework.

Key features of Transformative SEL include:

  • Authentic partnership between students and adults with a particular focus on sharing power and decision-making between young people, educators, families and communities.
  • Academic content that incorporates issues of race, class, and culture.
  • Teaching that honors and connects with students’ lived experiences and identities, and supports learning to build an understanding of the lived experiences of others.
  • Improve and highlight the social and emotional skills necessary for civic engagement and social changelike reflecting on personal things and social identitiesexamining biases and prejudices, challenge social normsdisrupt and resist inequalities, and co-construct fair and just solutions.
  • Prioritize individual and collective student action to take action for fairer schools and communities.
  • Focus on creating belonging and engagement for all individuals.

All bold the underlines inside the quotation marks of this article are added.

Bottom line.

Transformative SEL was the original intent of Governor Northam’s VDOE. It is an essential reference in Virginia Social and Emotional Orientation Standards.

The transformation of society has always been where the embrace of SEL by the educational institution has been headed.

A critical democracy requires that education be aimed at collectivism, productive interactionism and authentic engagement..

You might think Virginia progressives will embrace transformative SEL. Denial is hindered by the opening of the written intention.

But progressives have repeatedly demonstrated that they can both deny something exists and attack those who don’t support it.

We will see that here. We already are.

My subscription to Education Weekthe reference weekly of the educational establishment, informed me this month:

Proponents of social-emotional learning are going on the offensive in a bid to disentangle the teaching of skills like empathy and resilience from the polarization surrounding lessons about racism, sexuality and even American history .

So now they want to “untangle” the public perception of what they’ve already done. And proudly proclaim among themselves. Count on the mainstream press to carry that water.

Many school divisions in Virginia have yet to implement SEL. They are the wise.

For Governor Youngkin, his Superintendent of Public Instruction, the Board of Education, school boards and parents, SEL has been exposed for what it is and was always meant to be in terms we can’t confuse.

It’s up to you to act.

Updated September 23 at 2:05 p.m.