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Exploring the Dark Side of Social-Emotional Learning

Updated: Jul 5, 2023

  • SEL in schools lacks transparency.

  • Data mining is used to identify and monitor behaviors with no explanation of how the data is being used or what the desired outcomes are

  • SEL is a vehicle for teaching sexual politics and CRT in the classroom

  • Excessive salaries are paid to SEL coordinators while teachers' wages barely keep up with inflation while being asked to take on additional responsibilities for SEL teaching.

  • Teaching SEL reduces math and literacy instructional time which is desperately needed



Social Emotional Learning (SEL) has been a hot topic in the education world for a few years now, with some people praising it as a solution to discipline problems and others warning about its potential risks. According to the US Department of Education, more than 90% of schools and districts in America focus on developing students' SEL skills through standards and curricula.


EFA correspondent Erica Goodpaster discusses some concerns regarding SEL in North Carolina schools in a recent podcast.


Goodpaster, a substitute teacher, and a parent, argues that while SEL seems like a worthwhile idea in theory, it can be problematic if not taught correctly. While SEL tenants may seem helpful, their broad and vague definitions can be interpreted differently by each teacher.


One teacher may teach SEL tenants in a way that focuses on individual responsibility and accountability. In contrast, another teacher may focus on exploring student sexuality and reinforcing elements of 'Queer Theory.'


National education groups have criticized SEL as child abuse and as a vehicle for conversations about race and gender identity.


This disconnect between approaches to SEL has caused a philosophical divide between proponents of the curriculum. It has also caused some parents to express concern and withdraw their students from SEL-based classes.



One of the other concerns raised in the podcast was data mining. In some North Carolina schools, students are asked to provide private information about their sexuality, sexual habits, and innermost thoughts through surveys.


Despite the stated goal of identifying trends and improving student outcomes, the privacy of students is not always respected. Additionally, data can be sold to third-party companies, further compromising students' privacy.


EFA president Sloan Rachmuth points out that the practice is similar to Mao's in the Chinese Marxist revolution, where private thoughts and emotions were considered a threat to the government's power and control.


Rachmuth and Goodpaster also question the effectiveness of SEL as a solution to discipline problems in schools. Goodpaster and the host cited incidents of out-of-control violence and sexual grooming of children by teachers, which suggests that the issue lies not with the lack of SEL in schools, but with the lack of discipline and oversight done by school administrators.


School districts must implement SEL to qualify for government funding. Thus, schools may groom children on values deemed appropriate by the government, but not those taught at home.


This is a source of conflict for students as they have to reconcile the differences between what they are taught in school and what they are taught at home. As a result, they may be more likely to feel confused, frustrated, and rebellious.


School behavior problems may seem easier to solve with SEL, but programming has its own risks and issues. EFA urges parents to get informed and legislators to learn what SEL curriculum is taught in classrooms. Teachers are also encouraged to speak up and voice their concerns regarding SEL implementation in schools.


Only through open discourse and careful consideration can we ensure SEL is taught responsibly and effectively.

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