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Idaho education officials plot to hide racist ‘social emotional learning’ from parents

Idaho education officials plot to hide racist ‘social emotional learning’ from parents

Wayne Hoffman
October 20, 2021
Wayne Hoffman
Author Image
October 20, 2021

It’s not a tax increase. It’s a “revenue enhancement.”

It’s not massive new government spending. It’s an “investment.” 

It’s not critical race theory. It’s “culturally responsive teaching.” 

This politician is not a liberal. He’s a “common-sense conservative.” 

Folks in government have a horrible habit of conjuring up all sorts of euphemisms to describe the things they know you won’t like. 

The latest bit of word sorcery comes from an Idaho state agency that has some expertise on political spin: the Department of Education, which is now trying to hide a vehicle for critical race theory from the public. 

During Tom Luna’s turn as state school superintendent, he and lawmakers rebranded the much-vilified Common Core education standards as “Idaho Core” and then proceeded to tell the public that it had nothing to do with Common Core except, well, everything. 

Now comes Sherri Ybarra, Luna’s successor, who has practically turned the department into a propaganda factory that can lipstick any pig and make a failing school sound like the latest Jeopardy! champion. Half the kids are failing? No problem! That means half the kids are passing! Yay for student achievement! 

The leftist blog Idaho Education News reported that Ybarra’s Department of Education is now distancing itself from the words “social emotional learning.” The reasoning has everything to do with the fact that social emotional learning is the vehicle through which social justice indoctrination concepts like critical race theory have quietly made their way into our classrooms. 

But rather than openly admit to their coverup, the department has settled on two excuses for never saying the words “social” and “emotional” and “learning” together in a sentence. 

Department spokeswoman Kris Rodine was quoted as saying that there’s nothing wrong with social-emotional learning; it’s just been “co-opted to become a point of controversy, and interpreted to mean something we do not advocate.” Rodine went on to tell me that what the department really wants is to help “detect when kids need help and connect the family with needed support and assistance as their child deals with negative emotions, learns to avoid and resolve conflict, and copes with adversity.”

On the other hand, Eric Studebaker, the DOE’s director for student safety and engagement, said the department is shying away from controversial words because polling by the Fordham Institute found that parents’ hatred of such terminology is off the charts. And so state officials are trying to figure out how to keep doing what they’re doing without admitting to it and facing the wrath of parents. 

Since the dawn of time, schooling has been about passing on knowledge and information to the next generation. Today, schools have shifted to focus on behaviors and emotions, tying everything and anything back to mental health. 

For example, if your kindergartener is having trouble sitting still in his seat and is acting out, it might not be because he’s a squirmy little boy. And Lord knows you wouldn’t want a squirmy little boy to end up a dysfunctional teenager who opts to shoot up a school. And that’s how social emotional learning was sold to legislators a couple of years ago when Ybarra asked for funds to train teachers in it. 

Yet there’s very clear evidence, as IFF’s Anna Miller uncovered, that social emotional learning is requiring teachers to view students according to their race and level of oppression, and that’s the dirty little secret about social emotional learning that has caused the department to act, to engage in a rebranding effort. It’s sort of like how Kentucky Fried Chicken became KFC, in order to downplay the “fried” part some years ago.  

Today, Ybarra’s education department is trying to downplay the connection to critical race theory, even though social emotional learning is still pretty bad. It has no place in Idaho’s schools, or any schools for that matter. That’s even more apparent now that the department is working to bury it in euphemisms in order to hide its existence from parents. 

View Comments
  • Sue says:

    Thank you for helping me keep up in this very important issue.

  • Nancy McAninch says:

    I am saddened by the lack of parental concern in St Maries, SD 41. School Board meetings unattended, 4 folks addressed the Board at past 3 meetings I being one. I submitted written questions, it took 2 months for their reply. All answers were carefully worded and negative to my requests. Idaho is still sleeping! Thank you for the efforts.

    • Brad Gee says:

      Being from Saint Maries, I dont have any school age children there anymore, I would like to know what question were asked and what answers where given. Just from a curiosity stand point.

  • Bee says:

    Parents simply must give up their daily lattes, newer vehicles, designer clothes, bigger houses, etc. And Homeschool or CoOp Homeschool. Hillsdale edu has help for k-12 now. Get your children/grandchildren
    out of these indoctrination centers.

  • KJ says:

    The Department of Education knows if you change the language you can control the narrative. Its what cults do. ...and politicians.

  • Idaho Elementary School Counselor says:

    I'm an elementary school counselor. Wayne Hoffman has NO IDEA what he's talking about. Go to your local school and talk to the staff about what they actually teach to kids. This guy is dangerously ignorant. We teach communication skills (I messages), empathy, kindness, suicide prevention, drug/alcohol prevention, personal safety, stress management, career readiness. From 2007 to 2017, suicides among 10-to-24-year-olds rose 56 percent, overtaking homicide as the second leading cause of death in this age group (after accidents). The increase among preadolescents and younger teens is particularly startling. Suicides by children ages 5 to 11 have almost doubled in recent years. Children’s emergency-room visits for suicide attempts or suicidal ideation rose from 580,000 in 2007 to 1.1 million in 2015; 43 percent of those visits were by children younger than 11.

    What kind of person opposes wellness and research-based resilience-building lessons to prevent suicide? (This is a new curriculum for elementary added within the last year or so.) Who would oppose lessons that build the "soft" skills that are critical to success in relationships, job retention, and almost every aspect of human life? Being able to communicate well and reasonably, being able to regulate one's own emotions, being able to feel empathy for another human, being able to manage one's own stress in healthy, appropriate ways? Being able to keep oneself safe and move toward one's life goals?

    Seriously, is this the Twilight Zone?

    • Terry says:

      Oh so it's all about the kids, right? Parents and grandparents have been getting told this for decades now. It's a play on emotions because after all "who would EVER not care abot the kids? It's for their own good". After 50 plus years of social experimentation by the Left, our kids are now worse off than they ever were. The school system is not responsible for the students mental health care or emotional couseling, the parents are. We fell for that decades ago and opened our kids up to Leftist ideology that has little if nothing to do with their well being. This is exactley why parents and grandparents are showing up at school boards meetings demanding answers and explanations for this insidious indoctrination. Then we get told by the NEA that they are working with the DOJ to identify the same parents and grandparents as "domestic terrorists". Thank God for the Idaho Freedom Alliance. I will support them wholeheartedly and vote to install state legislators who will end this Marxist indoctrination.

  • IFF says:

    This issue is one that has been hidden in common core for 100’s of years. Social Engineering it’s when politics becomes more about gaining power for themselves. Than caring about our fragile freedoms. They would rather force us through the school system knowingly the are only doing it for the political agenda until the final product is produced. The people engineered the way they want.
    What we have been given by the framework we only get once it’s rational to keep. Not strip it away from us in anyway possible. This is much more of an issue than CRT or SEL. Have we forgotten “that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth“-Abraham Lincoln. Freedom is fragile and we need to fight for not let it be taken away. I was talking to an Army Ranger in 2016 willing to give his life if the call ever came. He told me being a citizen of the United States of American is the greatest opportunity he will ever have.
    I don’t know if that means anything to you or not? It does to me. Whatever you say it’s right it is your right.
    I do want to call out a friend for Status of the week though to catch his attention Russ Fulcher. Bills he cosponsors is the only about himself he is a Congressman that work in the people’s house and is supposed to be be representing the people not himself. Russ it’s time to fight for the people and I will not accept any form of an excuse.

  • Bee says:


    ...by way of folks that are often hard pressed to adequately provide the STEM academic needs.
    What could possibly go wrong? /s

  • Bee says:

    Here is a quote from Dr. Thomas Sowell:

    ''Low-income minority students, especially, cannot afford the luxury of having their time wasted on ideological propaganda in the schools, when they are not getting a decent education in mathematics or the English language.

    When they graduate, and go on to higher education that could prepare them for professional careers, hating white people is not likely to do them nearly as much good as knowing math and English.''

  • Heather Hoopes says:

    IFF needs to differentiate between education and schooling; there is a world of difference between the two, and it's important to make the distinction if you're going to write about the education system.

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