If the GOP-led Congress had not done enough damage to public education by passing the statist Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), it’s poised to make things even worse. The new threat is the Strengthening Education Through Research Act (SETRA). If SETRA passes in its current form, the federal government will be empowered to expand psychological profiling of our children. Parents must understand this threat so they can mobilize to stop it.
SETRA is a proposed reauthorization of the Education Sciences Reform Act, which created bureaucracies and funding for education research (the results of which are routinely ignored if they contradict the dogma of the progressive education establishment). But SETRA would go beyond merely wasting money and plunge the government into an area it has no constitutional, statutory, or moral right to invade: the psychological makeup of children.
Section 132 of SETRA expands authorized research to include “research on social and emotional learning [SEL] . . . .” SEL is defined as “the process through which children . . . acquire and effectively apply the knowledge, attitudes, and skills necessary to understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions.”
SEL is all the rage in public education. The idea is that imparting academic knowledge is passe’ because if a student wants to know something, he can Google it (seriously – this is a common theme in education circles). Instead, the theory goes, schools should focus more on “non-cognitive” skills to jumpstart education – helping students develop government-approved thoughts, feelings, attitudes, and behaviors that will supposedly make them more productive workers.
In other words, the school will do what the parents should be doing (encourage development of these non-cognitive traits), while the parents do what the school should be doing (teach math).
Emmett McGroarty is the executive director of APP Education. Jane Robbins is an attorney and a senior fellow with the American Principles Project.