Parents who visit the Jenks Public Schools Southeast Elementary website to learn more about the school’s “social emotional learning” (SEL) efforts are quickly directed to documents by other organizations that declare “social emotional learning” allows teachers to “address privilege, prejudice, discrimination, social justice, and self-determination in K-12 settings.”
The Jenks elementary school’s “Social Emotional Learning (COVID Resources)” page on its website, includes a prominent link for an “SEL for Parents & Educators” page. That link takes parents to the Inside SEL website, whose “Diversity, Equity & Inclusion” materials tout Panorama Education’s “Transformative SEL.”
That site defines transformative social emotional learning as a way “to combat the educational, social, and economic inequities that exist as a result of decades of racialized cultural oppression in the United States.” The site says SEL can allow teachers “to effectively address privilege, prejudice, discrimination, social justice, and self-determination in K-12 settings,” saying that process “requires an explicit examination of the root causes of racial and economic inequities in hopes of fostering justice-oriented self-awareness, social awareness, and responsible actions (both individual and collective) in students.”
The site also states that “self-management, self-awareness and social awareness” may be “expressed differently by culture.”
Panorama Education’s “Transformative SEL” site also suggests that schools can “leverage professional development” to “help teachers and leaders create” learning environments “that are proactively anti-racist.”
Anti-racism refers broadly to the theories of Ibram X. Kendi, author of “How to be an Antiracist.” Kendi has expressly written that “racial discrimination is not inherently racist” and that the “only remedy to past discrimination is present discrimination.”
The “Transformative SEL” page also directs citizens to a report, “Advancing Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) as a Lever for Equity and Excellence” produced by the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL).
The CASEL report indicates that “social emotional learning” initiatives are not watered-down versions of other programs popularly associated with the tenets of Critical Race Theory.
“Some districts have expressed concerns that SEL could be misunderstood by some as reflecting ‘white, middle-class values’ and therefore an ‘easier sell’ to families, board members, district leaders, and/or funders than do equity initiatives, which seek to shift the balance of power and privilege or call on stakeholders to examine and address biases and related opportunity gaps,” the CASEL report states.
In such programs, “equity” is touted as superior to “equality,” with proponents expressly saying that equality is unfair because equal opportunity does not produce equal outcomes. An official with the Norman school district has publicly declared that a focus on equity will result in “an individual or group of individuals sometimes getting more.”
The CASEL report touts Tulsa Public Schools as a model for schools nationwide, noting that Tulsa schools developed an “Equity Allies program” that focused on “foundational anti-racism and social and emotional competence.”
“There is much untapped opportunity for SEL to serve as a lever for equity, addressing issues such as power, privilege, prejudice, discrimination, social justice, empowerment, and self-determination,” the CASEL report states.
Panorama Education’s “Transformative SEL” site “also links to a document regarding “Transformative SEL in Action” from the Take 5! Institute that declares, “A dynamic dialog is emerging among educators and other professionals that support children and families: It’s time to renew our efforts to advance equity and social justice.”
The Take 5! Institute report states that a “global upswell of protest is a response to growing concern over equity issues; once tolerated social and institutional attitudes and behaviors are no longer acceptable.”