Heroes of Liberty Blog

Should Parents Be Concerned About Social Emotional Learning?

Boy looking sadly out of a window.
Boy looking sadly out of a window.

Many parents are aware of the threat to their children’s education and mental health posed by Critical Race Theory and gender ideology. But with numerous states already banning teaching harmful woke ideologies, and many more considering legislation, educators are looking for new ways to sneak subversive materials into classrooms.

One way is through Social Emotional Learning classes.

Kirsten Hill, who sits on the Ohio State Board of Education, has described Social Emotional Learning as a ‘Trojan Horse’, while James Lindsay, founder of New Discourses and an expert on the subversion of America’s educational system by radicals has called it “possibly the most important topic happening in education, at least if you care about the well-being, health, and safety of children and the future of this country.”

But what is it? And how exactly are activists using lessons in emotional awareness to harm American children?

What is Social Emotional Learning? 

Social Emotional Learning (SEL) has been around since the early ‘90s, and started out innocently enough. Originally it was designed as a way to encourage children experiencing emotional difficulties to cope better with their emotions, with the aim of helping them to do better at school.

The concept was originally developed by the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL), which defines SEL as “the process through which all young people and adults acquire and apply the knowledge, skills, and attitudes to develop healthy identities, manage emotions and achieve personal and collective goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain supportive relationships, and make responsible and caring decisions.”

The idea, in other words, was for children to learn to self-manage their emotions and learn responsible decision making. However, over the years, CASEL refined and developed their program, eventually introducing “Transformative SEL”, which they say is “aimed at redistributing power to more fully engage young people and adults in working toward just and equitable schools and communities.”

A 2018 briefing paper explicitly stated that Transformative SEL was developed “to reflect our interest in making explicit issues such as power, privilege, prejudice, discrimination, social justice, empowerment, and self-determination in the field of SEL.”

This should be a big red flag to concerned parents. As James Lindsay warns: "'transformative' is a Marxist watchword. Transformation of society is one of [...] their key goal[s].

“'Transformative' in Marxism refers to the idea that you're going to transform society and transform yourself so that society and you become socialist together. That's really what it's about."

Isn’t it good to teach children how to control their emotions?

Yes it is, but that's not what's happening. While SEL as first developed was useful for children who were struggling at school, Transformative SEL is a completely different matter. Concepts such as the redistribution of power in society, and the need for equity (rather than equality) are lifted straight out of Critical Race Theory, which teaches that America is an institutionally racist country, and that discrimination against white Americans is required to redress the balance of power (you can find out more in our blog on Critical Race Theory).

“It’s a game of semantics,” Jennifer McWilliams, a parental rights education consultant, told The Daily Caller. “They’re literally training these children to dismantle our country. Critical Race Theory is the ideology, but Social Emotional Learning is the delivery system of the ideology into our K through 12 schools.”

For example, in 2020, Montgomery County, Maryland informed all public school principals that they would “be required to implement a student psychoeducational lesson during one of the school’s mandatory Social-Emotional Learning (SEL) block [sic] before September 18, 2020. This lesson will provide students crisis facts about the dual pandemic (COVID-19 and systemic racism) that is occurring around the country and here in Montgomery County,” according to the New York Post. 

Materials provided to teachers recommended that they buy Antiracist Baby by Ibram X Kendi, a book aimed at 0-3 year olds which teaches very young children to be highly aware of race and discriminatory in their behavior.

A page from Ibram X Kendi's book 'Antiracist Baby', which teaches that being color-blind to race is racist

Teachers were also given a script to follow for Zoom lessons, in which they were told to tell their students: “A pandemic is defined by an outbreak of a disease that occurs over a wide geographic area and affects an exceptionally high proportion of the population. As you can see from this slide [featuring a Black Lives Matter protest poster], both are affecting lives of people in our community and around the world.”

Principles were also informed: “students can not opt-out of the lessons.”

What can I do as a parent? 

First and foremost, parents need to be aware that Social Emotional Learning lessons are being used to deliver divisive and damaging lessons in Critical Race Theory to children in schools. Ask your child’s teacher whether SEL is implemented in their school, and to see the content of the lessons. This may require filing a request for the documents under the Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA).

You may want to join a parents’ rights group such as Moms for Liberty, to try to overturn any policies mandating the lessons.

However, there is also much you can do at home. Home and family are much more important to your child than teachers and school, so take the time to overturn harmful lessons in the evenings by teaching your child to think critically about what they are being taught.

Books such as those offered by Heroes of Liberty are a great way to undo the harm done at school, opening children up to learn about figures and ideas that they may not come across at school. Thomas Sowell, for example, is a great person to introduce children to when teaching that success should be based on merit, not skin color.


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