If you have a child in school or have been in the education arena for a while, you’ve likely heard of social emotional learning (SEL).
Used in many public schools including those in the state of Minnesota, “Social emotional learning (SEL) is broadly understood as a process through which people build awareness and skills in managing emotions, setting goals, establishing relationships and making responsible decisions that supports [sic] their success in school and in life.” Sounds like a great thing to learn, right?
Unfortunately, the official goal of SEL may be a bit different in theory than in practice.
Consider the following example of SEL instruction which circulated on Twitter/X the other day. Identified as a first grade SEL exercise, the teacher holds up different colored shapes, such as a red square and a green circle. The teacher then tells the students that the colors represent something other than their traditional meanings–the red square is really a triangle and the green circle is really a square. Take a watch:
Don’t worry if you come away as confused as the little boy in the green shirt. In fact, you may have to watch it several times to process what is going on. It’s definitely mind-stretching … but there’s also something else at work in this lesson.
This technique, another Twitter/X post explained, is called the Stroop Effect and seeks to train young minds to “counteract biases by using visual or verbal cues to develop new associations.” Put differently, it takes factual statements and gives a different meaning to them, promoting a relativistic approach to life where “my truth reigns” even if it’s clearly disprovable by facts.
Regularly hearing about SEL is one thing, but seeing an SEL lesson in action is another … and in all likelihood, it’s unsettling. After all, if schools can train children to think differently than what their own eyes see, then what other propaganda can they get children to accept?
Sadly, that is exactly what the public education system seeks to do. American scholar H. L. Mencken recognized this fact roughly 100 years ago, writing that the American public had an “erroneous assumption” about public education:
That erroneous assumption is to the effect that the aim of public education is to fill the young of the species with knowledge and awaken their intelligence, and so make them fit to discharge the duties of citizenship in an enlightened and independent manner. Nothing could be further from the truth. The aim of public education is not to spread enlightenment at all; it is simply to reduce as many individuals as possible to the same safe level, to breed and train a standardized citizenry, to put down dissent and originality.
Given that we can see this happening before our own eyes through the medium of SEL instruction, perhaps it’s time we seek other forms of schooling for our children–at least if we truly want them to be well-educated, truth-loving individuals.
Image Credit: RawPixel