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Social Emotional Learning and America's Culture Wars

A few months ago, educators started telling me about the parent pushback they were getting on their social emotional learning lessons and curriculums. Many told me their parents and community members were connecting "SEL" with CRT (critical race theory). Three-letter acronyms with little else in common. As one district leader shared, "they are convinced SEL is the backdoor for CRT."

As the stories began to pour in, I got curious and went to Facebook. This is what I posted back in January:

I'm wondering if any of you, dear friends, are folks who are worried about CRT and SEL being taught in schools. If you'd consider an open and respectful conversation, I'd like to better understand your concerns and questions. I may not have answers but I am seeking to understand.

Nearly 50 comments later, here's what I learned: lots of people are talking about SEL and whether it belongs in schools. Not a lot of people actually understand what social emotional learning is, and why it's important for our kids. In spite of not knowing, tons of requests are being made to stop or remove SEL from school. The consequences of this move will be far-reaching.

This EdSurge article, Social Emotional Learning Should Not Be the Next Target in America's Culture Wars (~5 min. read time) was inspired by those comments and this debate. I wrote it because social emotional learning (often called"SEL" for short) is an important way for schools to support students' healthy growth and development. It's an ingredient for good learning, and it supports students' behavioral health and future employability. It is worth understanding, defending, and keeping in place.

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