Social-emotional learning: the latest public school gimmick

As I have said before, I do not devote much attention to whatever fresh new hell has captured the imaginations of public educators. The quality of public education in this country – which was never impressive to begin with – has collapsed so spectacularly that it is safe to say educators will obsess over absolutely anything before caring about actual academic work. This downward spiral started long before the coronavirus panic put students years behind already dumbed-down academic standards. There are probably preschoolers in China that are better at math than American high school students at this point.

I feel like conservative groups trying to reform public schools are wasting their time. They beat back critical race theory and they get gender ideology. They beat back gender ideology and they get social-emotional learning. This will continue ad nauseam. You are battling people who will literally never give a flying rat’s ass about reading, writing, and arithmetic. That’s the real problem here, not whatever specific fad they are chattering about this year.

(In fact, many new school teachers never received decent educations themselves. School districts nationwide will make anyone who can fog a mirror a teacher now. I’m not kidding. In most states, they are relaxing teacher certification rules, and even considering dropping certification tests altogether, because so many teaching candidates keep failing them. Many states have adopted “alternative certification” processes, where they will accept anyone with a bachelor’s degree in any topic, with zero prior teaching experience. That’s how desperate they are to put someone in a classroom. Remember that when someone asks you what “qualifies” you to homeschool your child. Ask them what they think about the fact that less than half of teaching candidates pass their certification exams, when the tests include only the most basic material. The State of Texas recently tried to make its certification tests more rigorous, and the general outcry from educators was that the teaching staff would become “less diverse” as a result. They truly do not care if teachers are proficient in the subjects they are teaching. You think they care about student performance?)

Even if you succeed at getting the state to adopt a decent curriculum, these lunatics are still the people at the front of the classroom. They have so thoroughly messed up educational institutions that intelligent and well-adjusted people would not entertain the idea of a career in education. This is doubly true for anyone with a STEM background – they could easily get a job in another field that pays several times more money, minus the woke insanity. Talk about an easy decision.

If you care about education, you should focus on helping as many children as possible have options beyond government schools, period.

That said, if you want to appreciate exactly how entrenched this ideological garbage is in public school systems, however, I offer you the example of Collier County in southwest Florida.

As a resident of southwest Florida, I can tell you with authority that this area is one of the wealthiest and most culturally conservative places in the country. My husband gave me a Maserati for my birthday this year, which we bought in Naples (Collier County). You’d think that would make me special, but the man in front of me at the dealership had just dropped a million dollars on a Ferrari supercar. You drive around Naples and within a few minutes you will have seen several Lamborghinis, McLarens, Ferraris, Bentleys, and Rolls-Royces.

Half of the anchors on Fox News own mansions down in Naples. It is not difficult for a Republican candidate to win by a 30-point spread here.

The public school systems in southwest Florida have two main problems. First, anyone who can afford to provide their child with a private education already does, and many people can afford to do that. Second, most public school teachers can’t afford to live in the area or anywhere near it. The median home price in Naples is $800,000.

You would think this, of all places, would have a school system insulated from woke nonsense, right? You have a rich, conservative population that intensely prizes education and academic performance and is willing to invest enormous amounts of money into both. Nope, the school system is woke to the core.

The school districts here almost seem to go out of their way to buck the cultural prerogatives of the population they serve. Then they can’t figure out why parents loathe them, no one wants to work for them, and they are hemorrhaging enrollment. It’s like the mainstream media puzzling over why no one trusts them or watches their programming. Total mystery. In some alternate universe, someone even remotely intelligent and pragmatic is running the school district as a legitimate meritocracy and the local population has made the school system the best-funded and highest performing district around. It would be so easy to be good at this. Alas.

This, from the local news, is what the school district in Naples is doing to math education:

A math textbook using social-emotional learning from Kindergarten through fifth grade is getting pushback by a small group in Collier County.

The Collier County School District Board approved the books in question Monday afternoon. In a statement made by the board on Monday, they 100% stand by their textbooks.

A question on page 211 of a McGraw Hill fourth grade math textbook reads, “What can you do today to help build a relationship with a classmate?”

Gayle Repetto from Collier County doesn’t like this or some others in the textbook. “They have different areas of respect and community culture and working together in a safe environment,” Repetto said. “And that really doesn’t have anything to do with math.”

“Math doesn’t have anything to do with respect for others, community culture, how we can work together,” Repetto said.

Preventing violence in schools could start with questions about feelings in math class, argued Collier County School Board member Erick Carter. “We have to find a place to start asking these questions! And, if we don’t, we are not going to solve the violent problem we have going on and our emotional issues that we’re having with our children these questions have to be asked,” Carter said.

School staff said the only emotions the ‘McGraw Hill’ books ask kids to discuss have to do with the lessons. Also, the school staff said the books contain no errors or biases.

H Michael Mogil is a math tutor, and he said the books are no good. In addition, they overrepresent girls and kids of color. “If you want to turn kids off to math and you don’t want them to succeed in math in high school then buy these books right now,” Mogil said.

An objection made by Sandra Doyle was centered around social-emotional learning. “These books still contain SEL and need to be rejected outright or undergo major corrections,” Doyle said.

Sammi Treglown has two K through fifth-grade kids and has no problem with her kids talking about emotions in math. “Yeah, I think it’s necessary to have these,” Treglown said. “You know, conversations about how what’s going on in the world and how it should affect you or how it does affects you and, you know, bring this to awareness to young kids is important, even at a very basic level.”

“Typically, there are, you know, prompts or things that bring out something emotional,” Treglown said. “Whether it’s like whatever topic they’re talking about, or just in general, you know, math’s not my favorite but maybe it would evoke a different emotion for some kids.”

A mom who preferred to remain anonymous said, “One of the objections was ‘what help do you want to do your work?’,” she said. “I personally want K through 5th graders to be able to ask and have their teachers better understand how to help them and learn so I really appreciate that these things are in our math books.”

Collier schools staff said these books meet the standards. They challenge kids to connect math to their own life. Doing something called ‘self-monitoring’ which has to do with examining their own feelings and thoughts. This, staff says, is not social-emotional learning.

So your kid is trucking away at problems involving fractions and then it is time for their psychoanalysis session. And because every batshit policy idea has to be connected with an appeal to some fake Armageddon, as it could not otherwise be justified with logic, these sessions are NECESSARY and URGENT to PREVENT FUTURE SCHOOL SHOOTINGS. Everyone knows the epidemic of violence in public schools right now stems from emotional reactions to finding the lowest common denominator. If you don’t like social-emotional learning, you are a monster that wants school shootings to continue.

I find it fascinating how they target math specifically for this stunt. There has already been a movement nationally to eliminate gifted and talented math education, with students topping out at algebra in high school. (By contrast, my 10-year-old homeschooled child is already doing algebra.) Not content with remedial math education, now they want to fill math work with subjective emotional BS.

(As someone who has to be familiar with what educational resources are available, as I regularly research and purchase curriculum for homeschooling, it is shocking how textbooks have changed over time. Most math and science textbooks now are about 50% fluff. They have a few pages of content and then it’s just word salad inserts on how to guess answers on standardized tests. If you look at a math textbook now versus one published 30 or 40 years ago, the decline in standards is inescapable.)

I don’t care what educational gimmick someone is discussing, the bottom line here is these people do not want to teach kids. Many can’t do the work themselves, they don’t want to be doing it, they don’t want to be measured on how well they transmit knowledge to students. That’s what the refusal to return to the classroom was about. That’s what working race and gender into absolutely every conversation is about. And that’s what “let’s not do boring and difficult math problems but instead talk about our feelings” is about.

You also have a entire political machine backing them that is totally fine with blowing up education in this country. While it’s worth asking why this is happening and cui bono, the first priority needs to be rescuing children from their influence. Give them a shot at a better life, better prospects, where they are not trapped 8 hours a day with an intellectual saboteur (and possibly worse).

Take a look at this video from Good Morning America, gushing praise over a teacher who turns her class into a therapy session on a weekly basis. And what is her message to children? “Grades don’t matter. They don’t define who you are. Let’s talk about sex and drugs.” This is a teacher in middle school. Imagine working your tail off to raise a kid that would want to attend a good college (or do something else that’s meaningful with their talents), and this is the message they are getting at school: It’s okay to be mediocre.

Academic performance does not determine your “identity,” but it certainly determines your earning power in this country. No one is rushing to hire engineers that can’t do basic math but love to talk about their feelings. Everyone knows this, so why doesn’t public policy reflect that?

It really is remarkable how the mission creep in public schools is becoming this negative feedback loop in terms of academic performance. Schools are performing badly, so they redirect attention from performance, so they perform worse, so they redirect attention away from performance.

Why should anyone be surprised children are going insane and exploding in such an environment? We are basically imprisoning sane kids in asylums and waiting to see how long they last. Public education is becoming a seriously fucked up and cruel social experiment.

One thought on “Social-emotional learning: the latest public school gimmick

  1. I work in high tech. I have a BS in applied math and I have a PhD in medical physics. I’ve been homeschooling but have decided to return to work. Through the interview process, I spoke with people doing difficult work. I realized that as tech matures, the problems become more complex. Meanwhile, I’m convinced that current educational systems are basically graduating math illiterates. I’ve heard too many stories of math teachers not teaching anything, telling the kids to figure it out for themselves and about how they don’t like math themselves. Or too many stories from homeschoolers who finally pull their kids out of public school in high school only to learn their kid doesn’t even know their multiplication tables or how to do basic fractions but were supposedly about to enter the equivalent of Algebra1/2. I can guarantee the Chinese are not teaching their kids this way. Unfortunately, I know too many homeschoolers who don’t put enough emphasis on math either. For more than a decade 30% of people graduating high school can only read at a 5th grade level. For almost 2 decades, I’ve heard friends who teach at a local state college complaining about how students don’t know how to write and several colleges now have required freshman writing courses because the problem is so bad. I’m more terrified than ever for the future of this country because we are not educating students to be competitive in the modern world.


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