SEL = CRT: Connecting the Dots

Why Social-Emotional Learning does, indeed, teach Critical Race Theory

By Ruth Littmann Ashkenazi

It all sounds so well-balanced and benevolent: To address the current mental health crisis among America’s youth, schools will teach Social Emotional Learning (SEL) - the goals of which include helping our young people develop: Self-Awareness Self-Management Skills Social Awareness Relationship Skills

Responsible Decision-Making Skills

Their Future Selves

Curriculum providers like “CASEL” insist that SEL is important “because it can help create educational opportunities and environments that promote learning and practicing social, emotional, and academic skills, all of which are fundamental to healthy human development.” The curriculum provider, “Playworks,” says it offers SEL that nurtures the aforementioned six skills through “a thoughtful approach to recess.” Sounds innocent enough … But CASEL, Playworks, and hundreds of other SEL curricula providers have another agenda, as evidenced by their “equity statements.” Consider CASEL’s equity statement, which proclaims: “SEL As a Lever for Equity and Social Justice”

If you suspect this smacks of leftwing bias, you’re right. CASEL’s equity statement declares, “… our work must actively contribute to antiracism [emphasis mine] and to all forms of prejudice reduction.” NOTE: Antiracism does not mean “against racism.” It is essential to understand that “antiracism” is a specific, politically loaded term, calling for activism. The term was popularized by author Ibram X. Kendi in his bestselling book, How To Be An Antiracist. Echoing the founders of Critical Race Theory, Kendi posits that America is a racist society, steeped in racial inequities that are caused by racial bias. He says: “The only remedy to past discrimination is present discrimination. The only remedy to present discrimination is future discrimination.”

According to Kendi, we need to be self-aware and socially aware of intrinsic and systemic racism, and we need to work toward racial equity by promoting antiracist policies. Kendi has been endorsed by the U.S. Department of Education under the Biden administration. Kendi’s books have been widely incorporated into academic curricula, and he gets paid $15,000-$20,000 per hour for antiracism workshops on Zoom. SEL curricula developers (like CASEL) are very much part of this pedagogical trend, and it is within this informed context that SEL buzzwords like “equity,” “social awareness” and “self-awareness” no longer seem so innocent. The primary objectives of SEL are clearly not a quest to improve our children’s mental health. They are designed to politically groom our youth.

Playworks spells out a similar agenda for its SEL curricula: “Addressing racial equity within Playworks is our first priority [emphasis mine] because race is an accepted basis – by many people and institutions in the United States – for upholding inequitable policies, practices, and attitudes.”

Interestingly, shortly after January 6th, 2021, Playworks published an article thanking teachers for “approaching hard conversations with kids … [about “the extremely troubling events in Washington, D.C. this week”] ... and what it means for them and their families.” It’s fair to ask why companies that purport to teach children how to become more “self-aware,” aren’t more “aware” of their own political biases. My contention is: THEY ARE … but they’re hoping you aren’t.