SB 1166 goal of reduced bullying is laudable, but this “social emotional learning” proposal will do more for union jobs.
"Focusing on academics rather than on pop psychology would be a good first step toward cultivating genuine social-emotional health and all the benefits that flow from it." - Dr. Karen Effrem & Dr. Jane Robbins
While seemingly innocuous, aiming to improve the “quality and character of the school life,” the bill would compel boards of education to adhere to state guidelines regarding school climate, thereby — once again — removing local control from districts who may not agree with ‘social emotional learning’ (SEL). To opponents, SEL has become a lightning rod (or a trojan horse) that would “condition children to become social justice activists for progressive causes,” as Peter Wolfgang, president of the Family Institute of Connecticut Action, testified. With math and reading test scores plummeting in Connecticut, teachers and administrators should instead focus on the basics in teaching students these subjects without the extra, real-world politics distracting from what will actually increase their opportunities in life.
SB 1166's focus on addressing and eliminating bullying (in-person and online) is, of course, laudable. All children benefit from a learning environment free from harassment and schools need to be able to respond to and effectively resolve bullying that takes place under their jurisdiction.
The proposed legislation, however, reads more like a jobs program for Connecticut's teachers' union than a targeted effort to reduce or eliminate bullying. American Enterprise Institute Research Fellow Max Eden notes, "From November 2019 to April 2021, SEL spending grew by 45% to $765 million. It is likely to soon become – if it isn’t already – a billion dollar education industry."
SB 1166 requires local school districts to conduct a "school climate policy," implement "restorative practices," and meet "national school climate standards." The likely details of these changes remain to be seen, but as Dr. Karen Effrem and Dr. Jane Robbins note in a study for the Pioneer Institute, there is much to be concerned about when reviewing the details of social-emotional learning:
- No expert consensus on the definition of SEL;
- Contradictory or poor-quality research underlying its
- Mixed or negative research about the supposed benefits
with respect to academic achievement, reduced suicide,
- Infusion of SEL into Common Core, resulting in
psychologically manipulative standards rather than the promised clear, rigorous academic math and English standards;
- Linking of SEL to violence and suicide prevention via mental-health screening, which can lead to improper diagnosis and over-treatment with potentially harmful medications;
- Use of SEL and accompanying personality profiling in competency-based education/personalized learning to influence students’ post-secondary plans based on government- and business-determined needs, instead of the aspirations and desires of students and their families;
- Erosion of student data privacy by collection of highly sensitive social-emotional information, in many cases without consent, and resulting in non-consensual exposure of such data to either authorized or unauthorized third parties;
- Possibility of indoctrination and erosion of freedom of conscience via government-established SEL norms for the attitudes, values, and beliefs of freeborn American citizens.