We received a message from a parent regarding the new social and emotional learning that Portsmouth has been using in their schools.

Just saw a reference to this in a school newsletter. Apparently it has been used in Portsmouth elementary school for the past 4 yrs. It is a social, emotional learning curriculum(SEL). It sounds like the teachers who are being “trained” in this curriculum are now amateur psychotherapists. The part that was alarming in reading one of the things I found online was the reference to creating a microcosm in the school reflecting what our society “should” look like outside of the school. It sounds nice about children getting along, dealing with their emotions in a respectful way, etc… but how is it implemented and how much time is being used to “raise” these kids instead of educate them and how is this stuff integrated in the other academic curriculum?


The parent raises some valid concerns. We’ve been through “values clarification” in the past only to find out schools were in the process of working to change the values of students.

Parents also support a disciplined environment where shared values are supported. Values like, honesty, integrity, truthfulness, respect, etc.This has been done by teachers and with administrative support in the past so we know it can be done successfully.

However this parent brings up valid concerns about what this actually means.
Why does a school have to utilize a program to promote good behavior among the students? How much does this cost the taxpayers? Shouldn’t the shared values come from the parents in the community? So parents know that their values will not be undermined?

These are the questions parents need to be asking as more schools shift focus away from the academics to the social and emotional learning. This is why conservative groups oppose SETRA and called for the halt to the psychological profiling of students.

We encourage you to watch the video found embedded in the “Wesley Centers for Women” website. While some of this sounds good and we can certainly appreciate teachers who instill values like honesty, listening, respect for self and others, there were a few concerns we had with what was being presented.

First, there is a reference at 1:45 to a change in the classroom from a time when students worked independently versus cooperatively. We’d just like to point out that many parents have concerns that this shift has caused many problems for their children.

For instance, the strong student academically is forced to help the other students along and placing a big burden on that child/children. Parents now question why they are paying a teacher to “facilitate” versus teach.

Other parents have wondered if this is an attempt to squash individualism in an effort to push collectivism.

While we believe it’s helpful for children to learn how to work as a team, we’ve also noticed a big push for this in the classroom in an effort to please corporate America that continues to push for the dumbed down Competency Based Education that shifts focus to workforce skills.

Around 1:50 she talks about this focus on challenging others on their ideas in a respectful manner. Again, this certainly can be a useful skill but some are concerned that this will be an attempt to challenge a child’s values that they’ve been taught at home.

Will that happen using this program? It’s hard to say but it certainly is worthy of noting.

Then around 2:05 she gets the heart of what this is all about, she mentions these skills are for the workplace. But she also mentions this is for young children.

Are we training workers AGAIN? YES, because Competency Based Ed is all about dumbing down the academics in favor of workforce training. It’s also worth noting that the elite private and parochial schools NEVER use this model for their students.

We certainly do not want to alarm parents with what may be some good behavior techniques that teachers can use in order to help the students. However we also want to make sure parents are aware and can then look at these programs with a critical eye.

The makers of this program include in their mission:
Our mission is to advance gender equality, social justice, and human wellbeing through high quality research, theory, and action programs.

The Wellesley Centers for Women is a premier women- and gender-focused, social-change oriented research-and-action institute at Wellesley College.

We’ve known that social justice and key terms like that have translated into extreme political agendas.

If you are in doubt, ask to see the teachers manual. Sit in on the class and observe when they are doing circle time. Find out what it costs your district. Exactly what values or “workforce” skills are they incorporating and most importantly, how much time are they taking away from academics?

The key is not to assume the worst but to be knowledgable and figure out if this is really what you want for your children and should you be funding this in your district.