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Social-emotional learning, Part 2: How SEL became a vehicle for critical race theory

Social-emotional learning, Part 2: How SEL became a vehicle for critical race theory

Anna Miller
June 30, 2021
Anna Miller
Author Image
June 30, 2021

Parents typically view themselves as the primary moral educators of their children and expect public schools to teach their kids basic academic disciplines like math, English, history and science. But in Coeur d’Alene District schools, more and more time is being redirected from academic instruction to social-emotional learning (SEL).

Proponents of SEL call for schools to focus less on academic content and more on “correct” attitudes, beliefs, mindsets, opinions, and behaviors of students.

If this alone doesn’t alarm parents, the Coeur d’Alene public school official SEL framework is guided by the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL), which uses SEL as a vehicle for critical race theory and to train vulnerable students into becoming social justice activists.

Coeur d’Alene’s framework is based on both CASEL’s standard framework for SEL and CASEL’s Transformative SEL framework—a radical form of SEL “aimed at redistributing power to promote social justice.” This form of SEL integrates “an explicit equity and social justice lens into the conceptualization and implementation of SEL.”

Consider the focus on equity. Coeur d’Alene’s framework states, “Social and emotional learning and educational equity … exist in a symbiotic relationship” and explains the SEL Core Competencies “through an equity lens.” To understand what is wrong with this, one must understand the difference between equality and equity.

Whereas equality means treating people the same, equity means social engineering to favor supposedly aggrieved minorities. Put simply, equity means treating some people better than others depending on the level of oppression they claim for themselves based on their immutable qualities like skin color or gender.

Coeur d’Alene officials define “equitable outcomes in education” and the core competency of “self-awareness” based on the CASEL resource “Equity & Social Emotional Learning: A Cultural Analysis,” which argues for “making explicit issues such as power, privilege, prejudice, discrimination, [and] social justice . . . in the field of SEL” 

Similarly, the Coeur d’Alene framework defines the core competency of social awareness as “recognizing the many factors influencing equity in the social context including power dynamics, cultural demands, race, class and privilege.”

So how will all this focus on students’ immutable characteristics like race and an emphasis on power and privilege play out? In a June 2020 webinar titled “SEL as a lever for Equity and Social Justice,” CASEL’s president and CEO advocated that SEL should be used to favor certain students over others primarily because of their race. The CEO concluded, “We see SEL as a tool for anti-racism.”

Anti-racism has been used as a bludgeon to destroy anyone or anything that disagrees with progressive dogma. The term was coined by Ibram X. Kendi as the idea that racism is a white problem. As American Enterprise Institute scholar Frederick Hess explained, “Much of what passes for anti-racist education is a poisonous exercise in caricature and rank bigotry. … What anti-racists mean by ‘education’ is something more typically understood as indoctrination.”’

A hallmark of anti-racism indoctrination is culturally responsive education models, an idea the Coeur d’Alene framework emphasizes in the core competency of “relationship building.” One CASEL resource the framework cites advocates for integrating culturally responsive pedagogy into schools to train students how to advocate for “social justice through critiques of discourses of power.”

Coeur d’Alene administrators are not alone in promoting CASEL’s Transformative SEL practices. Idaho’s State Department of Education recommended that school districts should use the CASEL resource SEL Road Map for Reopening Schools which argues schools and educators should adopt “anti-racist practices,” focus classroom lessons on “social justice,” conduct staff-wide “implicit bias” trainings, and make educators aware of their “white privilege.” Meanwhile, Idaho’s state education agency representatives have repeatedly voiced that critical race theory and social justice education is not happening here. 

Indeed, indoctrination is the central goal of SEL. Students must be taught to adopt the right attitudes and behaviors to become “change agents,” or activists primarily for social justice. This will come about by teaching children to “understand systemic or structural explanations for different outcomes” and “assess personal beliefs and biases,” the Coeur d’Alene’s framework explains. This is not at all the same as teaching children to be nice to each other or cultivate morality. Similar to other progressive education tools, the new goal of SEL is to divert all educational resources toward political activism and indoctrination.

Many administrators are likely unaware or uninformed about the underlying agenda of SEL. CASEL, however, is blunt about its transformative goals and supposedly believes that parents and well-meaning public officials will be too stupid or afraid to object.

Now that the wool has been removed from parents and officials' eyes, they should purify their schools of this indoctrination. Teachers need to go back to doing their core jobs. Social-emotional learning curricula must be expunged from schools.

If public officials continue pretending like this indoctrination is good for your kids, parents must remove their children from their public school before further damage is done.

In my next installment, I will explain how all of this happened in a state like Idaho. 

Read part 1 of this series here.

View Comments
  • Great content! Keep up the good work!

  • Al says:

    Anna Miller uses the word "equity" differently than teachers usually do. She uses a definition to fit her purposes while teachers generally use the real definition of "fairness" when using the concept of equity in classrooms. And lets not forget all the complaints weve heard for years about schools putting low functioning students in with high ones, bringing the high performers down, and the misc problems when you treat all students the "same", or "equal". Is that really a preferable course?
    And just to bring up history, because despite efforts to suppress our racial history, there is a very real past problem with "equal treatment". This was the justification used for segregationist "separate but equal" laws in school until Brown v Board of Ed just 70 years ago

    • Patrick J says:

      Not just teachers. In the legal system asking a court to rule on equitable principles literally means you are asking the court to order done, what should have been done in the first place. Equity is essentially a synonym for fairness.

      • Hsabin says:

        No equity is asking for some to get what others have worked to get without having worked for it themselves. They think they deserve it because of skin color. Another example is Black Lives Matter who want to say that black lives are more important than others lives. That’s their definition of equity.

    • Hsabin says:

      You forget AL that blacks treat blacks worse than any whites have treated them since the USA recognized the discrimination toward minorities and worked to fix it. Black Lives Matter has done nothing for them but the leader of this group bought 4houses for herself ….a million dollars worth wasn’t it? Where did the rest of the money go Al? And you forget that it was blacks who not only captured other blacks to sell to slavers but also owned black slaves so your comment is one sided snd definitely biased.

  • Bee says:

    The best weapon against CRT is the Civil Rights Act. Use it. Sue them.
    ~Andrew Sullivan

  • Mandi says:

    Anne- have you looked into the covid relief funds (ESSR) that school districts are getting and how they have to turn in their plans by 8/1/21 that includes
    "This plan must cover two primary areas. The first area must include information about the
    district’s mitigation strategies related to COVID-19. The second area must include information
    about how the district or charter schools are addressing student learning needs as well as staff
    and student social and emotional health."

  • Cynthia says:

    Thank you for this excellent explanation of how the CDA school district can essentially teach CRT without ever calling it such. As James Lindsey says, schools aren't TEACHING CRT, they are actually DOING CRT to the students. It's beyond disappointing that so many teachers seem to be naive about what is becoming indoctrination.

  • Patti George says:

    I live in a small town in CT and this is rampant in our schools. Covid was used to push this into overdrive and we are seeing the ill effects of its implementation. Now it is being used to push state sponsored school based health clinics into our schools. They are using the data from SEL to validate this push from parental rights to government control over our children. I homeschool and work in local government and am horrified by how many parents are drinking the koolaid. When you push back they literally lose their minds.

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