Parents must understand schoolchildren are being manipulated through curriculum

A July 2 column was a blatant attempt to discount parents and concerned citizens who are critical of using Social Emotional Learning (SEL) in the School District of Indian River County.

Unfortunately the column is reflective of attempts by progressives to cancel those who disagree with using K-12 classrooms as social experimental petri dishes.

The article did state the assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction believes the concerns are “blown out of proportion.”

The truth is the following examples of SEL curriculum should concern every parent, citizen, as well as educator.

Textbooks for grades 1-2 ask students to “Be mindful of gender considerations, reinforcing gender-neutral versions of common words such as businessperson or firefighter.” Another section states, “Expose children to books and other learning resources that reflect their ethnicity, culture, family structure, or socioeconomic status.”

The Follow Best Practices section speaks to “Consider your classroom set up” and addresses what children see in the classroom. Questions to ask include “Are there works by authors of different races in the classroom library?” and “Is the LGBTQ community represented?”

Another phrase to be wary of is Culturally Responsive Education or Teaching. Curriculum reflects the need for students to discuss social and political issues, topics of immigration, community-police relations, environmental concerns, women’s rights, and race relations. It suggests that teachers should tap into student’s cultural capital by having students respond to texts any way they want including, “allow them to use languages other than English.” I was under the impression English is what they are supposed to be learning!

I fail to see how the above improves student learning. More importantly, are 6-, 7-, and 8-year-olds even aware of these topics?

For those who are wary of SEL, let me shed some truth.

First, teachers are not psychologists or therapists — they are teachers. Their job is to help students learn to read and write in a manner that builds upon a foundation, which is based on education norms using a scope and sequence method.

Reading programs begin with introducing students to the alphabet and sounds, then build words such as bat and cat and hat. The sequence continues with formulating sentences, which leads to paragraphs. This leads to writing stories that have a beginning, middle and end or better known as Introduction, Content, and Conclusion.

When this sequence is not followed, it’s difficult for children to connect the dots and comprehend works of literature as they mature. The ability to analyze and discuss a biography or story or historical document becomes almost impossible.

The column also equated SEL to soft skills, which is interesting, because SEL has nothing to do with soft skills. Soft skills focus on how people speak, interact, and engage with others, while SEL teaches children what to feel about a specific topic, issue, or group.

The workplace for which students ultimately need to be prepared is not about feelings. Businesses focus on providing the best product and service. Employees are measured based on how they interact with customers, track consumer needs, gain repeat orders, and improve customer satisfaction. None of these skills are promoted via the SEL jargon being taught in today’s classrooms.

This begs the question that if SEL is necessary, why are 2019 National Assessment of Educational Progress proficiency scores reporting 12th grade reading at 36% and writing at 25%? Why are students graduating with a below grade level reading ability? Math, civics and U.S. history reflect even lower scores.

Parents and citizens should absolutely speak out about the atrocity of SEL, which is a subset of Critical Race Theory and based on Marxist tenets. The focus must be on academics that help children learn in order to be successful, not teaching children how to feel about a political, racial, or socioeconomic situation.

Karen Hiltz, a speaker and author from Sebastian, is a Navy veteran, retired federal procurement professional and former professor of business and public school board member. She has a doctor of education degree in leadership studies from Lynchburg College.