They Banned CRT, Now the Oklahoma Legislature Should Ban Transformative SEL
By Shane SmithPink Floyd’s 1979 hit song, “Another Brick in the Wall,” always rang hyperbolic to my young mind upon first hearing it years ago. With lyrics like, “we don’t need an education, we don’t need no thought control,” I couldn’t quite square it with hard subjects such as math, reading, and English. Wasn’t the mastery of these subjects a liberation of the mind rather than subjugation? I realize now that hard subjects weren’t the focus; rather the imposition of political and moral viewpoints upon impressionable young minds in the classroom were the target.
While I wasn’t alive in 1979, I didn’t experience anything resembling political indoctrination while attending school in the 90’s (a paradise in comparison to today’s political and moral dysfunction). My K-12 school, for the most part, kept to the basic subjects, and anything that deviated into political indoctrination felt glaringly out of place. I had a sixth grade teacher who spoke about his experiences in Vietnam, an eighth grade history teacher(who was also our football coach) who spoke of glory days and glory games past, an English teacher (also our girl’s basketball coach) who I merely remember as one of the kindest and most genuine people I’ve ever encountered. None of them made any attempt to foist a political agenda upon us, or engage in any attempt to manipulate us into taking up a social crusade. They understood the clear demarcation between what was in their job description, and classroom behavior that would make them unemployable.
But do modern teachers understand this distinction? I’ve met with many wonderful teachers who are working in the classroom today, but an increasing number of activist teachers have been making headlines for their in-class behavior, and I’m inclined to think that something has gone terribly wrong with the teaching profession as a whole. Activist, gender/race identity politics appears to rule our schools today. In today’s classroom, children are asked for their “pronouns.” Are they a “he/him,” a “she/her,” or something else entirely? The ghoulish implication is that a boy could identify as a girl, or vice versa, if the child so wished. This “pronouns” game has become the gateway to gender ideology, or the belief that someone can be any gender they desire, regardless of physical biology. Despite plummeting academic scores among America’s youth, this sickening Leftist gender religion is being pushed onto our kids.
But while the nuttier teachers are usually removed from the classroom, more attention must be paid to the curriculum itself. And within the curriculum among most major school districts has been injected activist indoctrination under the guise of “social-emotional learning,” a deceptively innocent phrase that hides an agenda virtually indistinguishable from “critical race theory,” recently banned by the Oklahoma Legislature through the commendable HB1775. The market for social-emotional learning curricula has exploded since the COVID pandemic, seeing a 45% increase, to $765 million, in just a year and a half. A recent analysis made by The 74 found that 88% of school districts spent COVID emergency funds on SEL programs.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, Panorama Education Inc., a survey company that contracts with public schools, doubled in size, serving roughly a quarter of America’s students. The children are required to participate in these intrusive surveys that are then transformed into data linked to the student for the duration of their time in school. I think we are correct to wish to know more about this silent revolution occurring in our classrooms.
Social-emotional learning, or SEL, we are led to believe, instills the “soft,” emotion-regulating skills that are necessary to succeed in life. And yes, we all need to learn to manage our emotions in order to achieve our goals, and succeed in work, school, and life itself. But haven’t we learned these skills all our lives, without the aid of an expensive, formal curriculum? We learn “soft” skills from our families and friends, our coworkers and our teachers, all without the need for a separate curriculum to instill them. And should a formal school curriculum really be the source of this learning? Why the push to inject this SEL into classrooms that are already in dire need of better outcomes in hard subjects like reading and math?
What danger can you imagine is inherent in giving schools this ability to teach and reinforce “emotional” learning? How could emotional responses possibly be graded in an unbiased manner? Do we really want a top-down curriculum used to teach our kids which emotional responses are right or wrong, basically teaching them how to feel when confronted with certain situations? I’m beginning to understand what Pink Floyd was getting at.
Norman Public Schools uses the Second Step social-emotional learning curriculum from kindergarten through high school. These lessons are given once per week, and I’ve been assured that no student is graded on the assignments, but I can’t help but sense a Trojan Horse having been wheeled inside the castle walls.
Second Step aligns with CASEL, the Collaborative for Academic Social and Emotional Learning. CASEL is the central command center for virtually all SEL content that is used in our schools. When their standards undergo change, the CASEL-aligned SEL curriculum providers change in lockstep. They’re like the CDC in this way, or the Vatican, or Gold Base. And over the past two years they’ve transitioned to a focus on “transformative SEL,” which places emphasis on “equity,” and “justice-oriented civic engagement.” Students are now made to be self-aware of their identity based on their cultural background, political opinions, sexual orientation, and gender identity. Second Step itself has produced videos, available on YouTube, that make explicit their dedication to transformative SEL. This is pure, poisonous, identity politics, and it’s not difficult to understand how this is completely inappropriate for the classroom.
Transformative social-emotional learning is a Trojan Horse that will smuggle in whatever array of social justice activist training that its creators wish into our classrooms with the goal of converting our children into supporters of leftwing causes. The data being gathered on children’s responses to SEL activities by private contractors begs the question of how that data will be used. Will this data be aggregated into a social credit score, ala China? Who will have access to this data and how will it be used? An article published at the UNICEF website, “SEL for SDGs,” openly calls for social-emotional learning to be used to achieve sustainable development goals. There is clearly an agenda here, and massive, well-funded organizations obviously see SEL as a golden opportunity to manipulate and program the emotional responses of children in order to serve an agenda.
Transformative, CASEL-aligned social-emotional learning is just a piece of the overall radical transformation our schools have undergone. In 2021 an investigation conducted by the organization, Defending Education, found that Norman Public Schools spent $22,750 on equity consultants: $3,000 to Factuality, Inc., $10,000 to the Anti-Defamation League, and $9,750 to ‘She Geeks Out, LLC’ for a single training class entitled, “Foundations of DEI & Unconscious Bias in the Workplace.”
We are teetering dangerously on a precipice of a fundamental social revolution, and if we go over the edge, we very well may not make our way out again.
Our kids shouldn’t be forced to learn how to think or feel from massive, well-funded ideologues whose values run opposed to our own. Schools should return to the three R’s of reading, writing, and arithmetic. Leftwing scams dressed up as innovative education programs should be kept out of the classroom. Manipulating children into supporting political causes will only cause harm.
To put an immediate stop to the spread of this insidious ideological sickness, the Oklahoma Legislature should, in 2023, explicitly ban transformative social-emotional learning from the classroom, along with any SEL provider that aligns with CASEL and endorses the practice of equity-focused, left wing indoctrination that is being smuggled into K-12 classroom under the guise of teaching “emotional skills.” We must immediately reject and forcefully oppose this push to mold students into identical, leftwing bricks, to be placed in a uniform, social justice wall.
Shane Smith is a pro-liberty writer based in Norman, Oklahoma. He blogs at: RepublicReborn.com, and can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org