Social Emotional Learning In Schools Seeks To Replace Your Family’s Values

Social Emotional Learning In Schools Seeks To Replace Your Family’s Values

By Tamra Farah |

Progressive educators have dressed up nonacademic social training in different outfits for decades. Still, the goal remains: to use public education to dictate the next generation’s norms and behaviors. This may seem innocent enough, but it’s not.

Early 20th-century education reformers like Edward Thorndike of Columbia Teachers College and John Dewey, the father of American progressive education, set out to refashion public education to diminish individuality and family influence in children. They aimed to replace these influences with a collectivist mindset prepared for the workforce. By doing so, they could capture the minds and hearts of children in the classroom and substitute “the state for the home and faith.”

Their socialist behaviorist model was effectively the first version of what we now know as social-emotional learning (SEL), which was most recently repackaged as the Whole Child educational framework.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

In the 1960s, Dr. James Comer of the Yale School of Medicine’s Child Study Center set out to prove the effectiveness of behavior versus academic focus for student success. He tested his theory in 650 low-income schools, admitting thirty years later that it was a failure. Still, his method served as the foundation for today’s SEL in schools.

In the 1980s, Psychology Professor Roger Weissberg aimed to help students “develop positive self-concepts” and hone skills in “self-monitoring” and “values such as personal responsibility and respect for self and others.” These seem like loaded phrases subject to interpretation, but his approach was acceptable enough to keep the behaviorist model train running on its tracks.

By the 1990s, National Center for Education and the Economy (NCEE) president Marc Tucker helped pass the Goals 2000 Educate America Act during the Clinton administration, echoing Thorndike’s goals to advance a socialist workforce development mindset in K-12 education. This was followed by the controversial Outcomes Based Education (OBE) model, which debuted when my kids were school age.

Thankfully, parental backlash in the 1990s squashed OBE, yet it morphed and reappeared through CASEL, the Collaborative to Advance Social and Emotional Learning. CASEL took time to stake its claim by hosting conferences and sponsoring research, presumably to build a support base. CASEL’s champion, Dr. Linda Darling-Hammond of Stanford Graduate School of Education, was a known progressive who advocated for educational equity. The push for so-called equity, versus the much-respected American concept of equal opportunity, hit schools long before COVID.

CASEL’s goals for students include providing “the process through which children and adults understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions.” This sounds innocuous until you realize their specific definitions for each element may be a far cry from what you might think.

For example, CASEL definitively overplays the role of schools in a child’s life when it asserts that “schools have an important role to play in raising healthy children by fostering not only their cognitive development but also their social and emotional development.” (Emphasis is mine.) This is a tremendous assumption of power over your children in the classroom and is tantamount to brainwashing, not promoting basic good behavior.

CASEL defends its emphasis on social and emotional learning via research that leaves something to be desired. First, there are no recent U.S.-based studies; instead, they cite a 2006 study that asked a national sample of 148,189 sixth through twelfth-grade students if they thought they had social competencies such as empathy, decision-making, and conflict-resolution skills. The results? Only 29% indicated that their school provided a caring, encouraging environment.  And how accurate are the results when parents were not consulted on the answers, given the relative immaturity of kids to answer these questions competently?

The latest version of SEL, dubbed Whole Child, stems from The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative. It includes expansive elements in its list of critical areas for schools to deliver to students: mental health, cognitive development, social-emotional development, identity development, academic development, and physical health. This resembles a giant leap toward Thorndike and Dewey’s early progressive education agenda.

According to research from the Massachusetts-based think tank Pioneer, Thorndike equated “learning with training” and believed in learning by conditioning. Like Pavlov’s dogs, children could be conditioned to exhibit the desired behaviors by a system of positive or negative consequences linked to actions. John Dewey, the dean of American progressive education, was equally enthusiastic about manipulating the psychological aspects of learning to manipulate the child.

Remember, Dewey favored the “educational potential of social behaviorism used in totalitarian societies” since those societies “required a collective and cooperative mentality.”

Pioneer’s conclusion? “Carried to its logical conclusion, SEL can replace parental influence with the ultimate nanny state.” Progressives have dressed up the nonacademic paradigm of social-emotional style learning in different outfits for decades. They have planned to substitute “the state for the home and faith” and replace individual liberty with a collectivist mindset readied for the “workforce.”

Social Emotional Learning, in its “transformative” form, promotes “justice-oriented civic engagement” to make your kids into activists or “social justice warriors.” Black Lives Matter has often invited schools over the last few years to engage in that process.

A hallmark of SEL’s manipulative approach is the use of student surveys. The surveys are sent to kids’ email inboxes, often asking questions of students that require parental consent according to federal law. SEL puts teachers in a mindset to pry into the lives of students and families. Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita said social and emotional learning programs shift “the role of teachers from educators to therapists.”

SEL is also big business. According to Education Week, nationwide sales of social and emotional learning materials shot up 45% in a year and a half to $765 million in 2021. Soon after, Attorney General Merrick Garland asked the FBI to investigate parents protesting social and emotional learning issues at SB meetings. It just so happens that Garland’s son-in-law co-founded Panorama Education, a company raking in millions selling social and emotional learning materials to school districts.

Don’t be fooled by social-emotional learning as your child’s education framework. It is not founded on academics and pushes your kids toward an activist mindset that may not align with your family’s values.  The Scottsdale Unified School District’s governing board recently approved a new social-emotional learning curriculum called Second Step.  For help discovering SEL’s impact on your kids at school, contact education@azwomenofaction.com for information and steps you can take.

Tamra Farah has a twenty-year career in public policy and politics. Her role as director and senior advisor at Americans for Prosperity, FreedomWorks, and Arizona Women of Action and her expertise in PR and communications demonstrate her ability to create engagement and transformation in her efforts. Tamra has appeared on Fox News, America’s Voice, Newsmax, and Victory Channel and quoted in major publications like The New York Times and Washington Post.

Over 900 Arizona Schools Refuse To Answer Questions About CRT, SEL Instruction

Over 900 Arizona Schools Refuse To Answer Questions About CRT, SEL Instruction

By Elizabeth Troutman |

More than 900 Arizona schools declined to answer if they teach Critical Race Theory. 

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne released figures showing that 900 schools would not answer five academic focus questions related to matters such as ensuring schools do not inappropriately expose students to explicit content and avoiding instruction that promotes racial division such as Critical Race Theory.

Of Arizona’s 2,467 district and charter schools, as of Feb. 29, 1,565 have affirmed that they are following these guidelines, but 902 have not.

Other questions attempt to ensure that any sexual content is developmentally appropriate, administrators fully support teacher discipline, and schools avoid excessive distractions such as Social Emotional Learning. 

Social Emotional Learning claims to equip children with the ability to manage emotions, feel empathy for others, and maintain positive relationships, but it integrates Critical Race Theory in the education system.

“It is scandalous to see that more than 900 schools have declined to be transparent with parents who entrust their children to be educated by these schools,” Horne said. “Parents have the right to be fully informed about what their neighborhood schools value and how instructional time is used.”

The media claims public schools don’t teach CRT, Horne said. The superintendent said this is false, as the Balsz Elementary District on the east side of Phoenix explicitly and publicly teaches CRT. 

“The fact that more than 900 districts and charter schools did not answer the question proves that the problem is widespread and distractions from academics are contributing to low test scores,” he said. 

“Every instructional minute is precious, and every minute should be devoted to academics, not unnecessary distractions, lessons that divide people by race, or exposing students to subject matter that is not developmentally appropriate,” Horne continued. 

The schools that declined to answer the questions will have that information on their school report card provided on the department’s website. If schools eventually choose to respond, their report card will be updated with that information. 

Early next week, the department will finish compiling and releasing information on whether schools are following state law that requires instruction on the Holocaust and other genocides. 

“Schools have a responsibility to teach to the state standards and graduating students who are academically proficient,” Horne said. “This is simple common sense and easily achievable by every school in the state.”

Elizabeth Troutman is a reporter for AZ Free News. You can send her news tips using this link.

Arizona Removes Schools’ Social-Emotional Learning Hurdle To Federal Funding

Arizona Removes Schools’ Social-Emotional Learning Hurdle To Federal Funding

By Corinne Murdock |

The Arizona Department of Education (ADE) removed a social-emotional learning (SEL) hurdle for low-income schools seeking access to federal funding.

ADE slimmed down the Comprehensive Needs Assessment, which schools must complete and submit in order to receive Title I funding designated for low-income schools. Superintendent Tom Horne directed the assessment to remove questions related to SEL, reducing the assessment questions from 168 to 20. 

Horne justified the move in a press release, saying that the SEL questions unnecessarily and disproportionately weighed down the assessment, creating a significant administrative hurdle for schools requiring federal assistance. 

“The previous Comprehensive Needs Assessment was weighed down with absurd measurements regarding Social Emotional Learning (SEL), which many teachers have complained is just a series of games that detract from teaching reading and math,” said Horne. “The prior emphasis on SEL issues meant the report grew to an unmanageable 80 pages with 168 questions. Now there are 20 questions on six pages, all devoted to improving core academics.”

In addition to removing the SEL barrier, ADE is updating its annual Kindergarten Entry Assessment (KEA) program. ADE projected that the pilot program will reduce administrative workload by 80 percent time-wise. 

Horne represents a 180 from his predecessor, Kathy Hoffman, who was an advocate for SEL. 

In other moves signaling a complete turnaround from Hoffman, Horne has also removed the controversial online sexuality-focused chat spaces for minors from the department website, as well as abolished the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Department.

Horne has also been defending the upkeep of universal school choice, the Empowerment Scholarship Account (ESA) Program. The superintendent defends the program as not only beneficial for parents desiring a more tailored education, but as a cost-saving measure to the state.

This puts the superintendent in conflict with Gov. Katie Hobbs, who claimed universal school choice wasn’t sustainable from a fiscal standpoint. 

Horne is also defending state law banning males from female sports — also running counter to the stance held by Hobbs, as well as the Biden administration.

 In April, the parents of two boys identifying as girls sued the state over the ban. The lawsuit claimed that transgenderism was a “sex-based trait.” 

“There is a medical consensus that a person’s gender identity is not subject to voluntary change and a significant biological foundation,” stated the lawsuit. 

The lawsuit also claimed that all individuals have a gender identity — a perception of one’s gender in addition to their biological reality — and that the only proper treatment for those with gender dysphoria was to allow the full exercise of the dysphoric feelings.

“Under the medical standards of care for the treatment of gender dysphoria in adolescents, the only safe and effective treatment for gender dysphoria is to permit transgender adolescents to live consistent with their gender identity in all aspects of their lives,” stated the lawsuit.

Corinne Murdock is a reporter for AZ Free News. Follow her latest on Twitter, or email tips to corinne@azfreenews.com.

Superintendent Horne Declares War Against ‘Mediocrity’ Of Modern Education

Superintendent Horne Declares War Against ‘Mediocrity’ Of Modern Education

By Corinne Murdock |

Arizona Department of Education (ADE) Superintendent Tom Horne said that his administration is warring against the mediocrity of the progressive norms defining modern classrooms. These norms include social-emotional learning (SEL) and the replacement of school resource officers (SROs) with social workers.

“There is a war in education between the crusaders for mediocrity and those who want academic vigor,” said Horne. “I am on the side that supports academic rigor, and I hope that the members of the TUSD Board will be too.”

Horne blamed SEL for the years-long decline of test scores. Horne also claimed that some teachers reported having to dedicate up to 40 minutes of class time to SEL, often described to him as entertainment-level activities like “dumb games.” He called teachers who reject SEL prioritization his heroes. 

“Our philosophy is that every instructional minute is precious,” said Horne.

Last fall, several reports were issued detailing the steady decline of student outcomes. The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) revealed in a report that students suffered severe learning losses in math and nominal losses in reading due to the COVID-19 shutdowns. ADE announced that a majority of Arizona students were still failing the statewide assessment.

According to the latest U.S. News & World Report rankings, Arizona is ranked 46th in education. This year’s rankings from Scholaroo rated Arizona as last of all 50 states in education when factoring student success, school quality, and school safety. 

Horne also cited a study to debunk the claim that SROs don’t mitigate school shootings. 

“[I]f a maniac were to invade a school, kill children, and the school chose a social worker as opposed to an armed officer, how do you think the parents of those murdered children would feel about that?” asked Horne.

Horne issued the remarks in a response letter to the Tucson Unified School District (TUSD) school board’s criticism of him as “misguided” and claiming his policies cause active harm to students. He said TUSD showed a “frightening hostility” toward orderly classrooms.

Horne has had a lengthy career in education and politics: he served as a school board member for 24 years, the state’s previous attorney general for four years, and as ADE’s superintendent for eight years. 

In their criticism issued earlier this month, TUSD Governing Board members Jennifer Eckstrom and Ravi Shah condemned Horne’s redirection of School Safety Grant Program funds to hire more SROs and the superintendent’s purge of SEL from education.

Eckstrom and Shah claimed that SROs didn’t reduce school shootings, but instead disproportionately disciplined minority students while over-disciplining students in general. 

“The best way to keep our children safe and to help those who need it most requires us to roll up our sleeves and tackle the problem the hard way: investing in our kids and schools through more counselors, social workers, and other supportive adults; investing the time, energy, and money necessary to engage families as partners in their children’s learning; and developing policies and practices that engage students and correct behaviors before they escalate,” wrote the pair.

Yet, in the most recent school shooting on Monday in Nashville, Tennessee at a private Christian school, local police revealed the shooter — 28-year-old Audrey Hale — had initially intended to target another, unnamed school, but decided against it because it had stronger security. Police also revealed that Hale, believed to identify as a transgender man named Aiden, had a manifesto and may have targeted the school over its Biblical beliefs. Hale, an alumna of the K-6 school, killed three students and three faculty members. 

Corinne Murdock is a reporter for AZ Free News. Follow her latest on Twitter, or email tips to corinne@azfreenews.com.

Paradise Valley School Board Member: White Christians Don’t Get a Say in Curriculum

Paradise Valley School Board Member: White Christians Don’t Get a Say in Curriculum

By Corinne Murdock |

The Paradise Valley School (PVUSD) Governing Board President Pro Tem indicated that white Christians shouldn’t determine curriculum. 

Newly elected PVUSD member Kerry Baker issued the remark over the weekend in response to Arizona Department of Education (ADE) Superintendent Tom Horne’s recent actions to purge social-emotional learning (SEL), critical race theory (CRT), and other progressive ideologies from classrooms. Baker claimed that CRT isn’t present in schools but that what Horne sought to eradicate was true history; she pinned blame on white Christians for the purportedly misdirected purge.

“We are not a society of white Christians,” tweeted Baker. “It is dangerous to assume we are. It is even more dangerous to believe public schools are only made up of white Christians. Our communities are full of rich and diverse cultures and families. We should ALL be celebrated. Not just a certain population.”

Baker added the claim that Horne’s opposition to CRT made him a “racist.”

“When [Tom Horne] says he’s anti-CRT, he’s just reminding us he’s racist,” stated Baker.

Baker, a former Peoria Unified School District and Dysart Unified School District teacher endorsed by teacher union lobbyist group Save Our Schools Arizona (SOSAZ), stands in opposition to major policy changes defining the Horne administration. Baker ran on a campaign opposing universal school choice, supporting SEL, and resisting public posting of teaching materials.

Baker is a product of the Leading For Change (LFC) fellowship program: a Democrat-run group that trains up Democratic elected officials and activists, founded by a board member of dark money group Arizona Advocacy Network (AAN), who’s also the former executive for Center for Progressive Leadership and Planned Parenthood of Central and Northern Arizona. 

Baker explained in her LFC biography that she decided to run for PVUSD governing board because two of her six children had identities that aligned with her activist interests. According to Baker, she has helped one of her children transition genders, and another one of her children has autism. 

In an interview with The Arizona Republic last year, Baker said that SEL was important because it enabled K-12 educators to fulfill students’ social and emotional shortcomings caused by school closures throughout the pandemic — much of which were prompted by educators and teachers unions.

During her first school board meeting earlier this month, Baker listed greater inclusivity of special needs children in regular classrooms, expanding LGBTQ+ rights, hiring SEL teachers, and emphasizing diversity among her priorities. Baker quoted Gov. Katie Hobbs in her introductory speech, saying that there wasn’t a shortage of teachers, just a crisis retention.

In addition to her dislike of “white Christians,” Baker appears to have a disdain for any groups composed mainly of white people — even if they’re children. In response to SOSAZ Director Beth Lewis posting a picture of Treasurer Kimberly Yee’s visit to the Brophy College Preparatory Republican Club last fall, Baker scorned the fact that the group looked too white.

“There wasn’t one [GIF] that said ‘so many white boys,’” wrote Baker.

Baker also supports allowing biological males to join female sports teams and enter female spaces, such as locker rooms and restrooms. Baker derided concerned parents opposed to this permissiveness as “transphobic.” 

Throughout her campaign, Baker opposed efforts to ban any books from classrooms. She emphasized this stance as recognizing the importance of multiculturalism. Yet, Baker opposed any aspect of religion from entering the classroom — namely, Christianity. Baker claimed her opposition represented the proper understanding of ensuring a separation of church and state.

Corinne Murdock is a reporter for AZ Free News. Follow her latest on Twitter, or email tips to corinne@azfreenews.com.