Chester Finn: Social-Emotional Learning is Self-Esteem Repackaged

This has to be one of the rare times I find myself in agreement with Fordham Institute’s former president, Chester Finn, but I think he is on to something in an op/ed Education Week published on June 19.

He says Social-Emotional Learning is just the self-esteem movement of the 80s repackaged.

Finn writes:

Today, few people talk explicitly about self-esteem or other kooky curricular enthusiasms of the past, but the worldview and faux psychology that impelled them have never gone away. Of late, they’ve reappeared—and gained remarkable traction—under the banner of social-emotional learning, which claims to build the ways by which children learn and apply skills necessary to understand and manage their emotions, make decisions effectively, sustain positive relationships, and practice empathy.

The notion has attracted much buzz, thanks in part to its very own advocacy organization—the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning, or CASEL—which is backed by many high-status funders across the country. The National Education Association climbed aboard as well. Social-emotional learning also enjoys a high-profile national commission under the aegis of the Aspen Institute.

Adding fuel to the social-emotional-learning bonfire is its recent association with hot-button issues, such as reforming school discipline into restorative justice. Another major push comes from the federal Every Student Succeeds Act’s encouragement of states to include school quality in their rating systems, with school climate as a key metric in many jurisdictions. Another current education enthusiasm, known as 21st-century skills, also contributes to social-emotional learning’s popularity.

There’s nothing exactly wrong with many of these ideas, some of which partake of legitimate performance-character traits such as impulse control and self-discipline. But social-emotional learning also smacks of the self-esteem mindset, with entries such as “self-confidence” and “self-efficacy.” Dig into social-emotional learning’s five core competencies, as laid out by CASEL, and you’ll spot—among 25 skills students are supposed to learn—just one feeble mention of ethics and none whatsoever of morality. You won’t even find such old-fashioned virtues as integrity, courage, or honesty, and certainly nothing as edgy as patriotism.

Read the whole piece.

HT: Richard Innes

One thought on “Chester Finn: Social-Emotional Learning is Self-Esteem Repackaged

  1. I would not believe or take stock in anything that comes out of Chester Finn’s mouth. He word smiths to hide his true agenda. Just do some research on CASEL. SEL=the tool they will use to indoctrinate our children. To change their current value system, beliefs and attitudes. Explained any other way is a total lie. Parents are to teach values and behaviors to their children. Parents are to build their children’s self esteem. If parents fail at this job it is not the job of the school to take over. If a child comes from a dysfunctional home no school or amount of money can overcome that.

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