Why We Can't Afford Whitewashed Social-Emotional Learning (ascd.org)

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Social-emotional learning (SEL) skills can help us build communities that foster courageous conversations across difference so that our students can confront injustice, hate, and inequity. SEL refers to the life skills that support people in experiencing, managing, and expressing emotions, making sound decisions, and fostering interpersonal relationships. The Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) defines five core SEL competencies, including self-awareness, social awareness, self-management, relationship skills, and responsible decision making. These competencies seamlessly lend themselves to preventing violence and to building a more peaceful world.

Calling on Courageous Educators
However, educators often teach SEL absent of the larger sociopolitical context, which is fraught with injustice and inequity and affects our students' lives. As an SEL practitioner-researcher who speaks nationally about the intersection of emotional intelligence, equity, and culturally responsive practices, I hear that educators shy away from such discussions for fear that they will be accused of politicization or that they will lose their jobs.

This fear is not unfounded. In Arizona, state representative Mark Finchem wants to introduce an education bill that will threaten teachers' jobs if they engage in any dialogue or activity that appears to advocate political, ideological, or religious positions. Other teachers feel ill-equipped and uncomfortable in addressing topics like poverty, gun violence, racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, and other forms of injustice that many students, particularly our most marginalized, experience daily.

Maintaining a safe space that prevents triggering students is crucially important when infusing SEL opportunities with the sociopolitical context.

The Ultimate Life Skills
We can no longer avoid discussing topics that make us uncomfortable. Our students, incessantly inundated with divisive rhetoric and reports of premeditated acts of violence (or even themselves targets of violence), don't have that luxury. SEL has tremendous potential to create the conditions for youth agency and civic engagement and, ultimately, social change. We owe our students an education that centers on their lives and explicitly addresses the sociopolitical context. This will not only prepare our students to engage civically and peacefully across difference, but also to become the changemakers and leaders we need.

To read more of Dena Simmons' article, please click here.


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The Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) defines five core SEL competencies, including (1)self-awareness, (2)social awareness, (3)self-management, (4)relationship skills, and (5)responsible decision making. 

The CASEL Five SEL competencies ARE NOT sufficient to achieve that which they were created to accomplish and which CASEL itself was created to accomplish.

There are 6 core competencies, not five, and the 6th is the one that is by far the most important.

Culture is biology. The 6th is left out because those that drafted the competencies themselves were speaking from, and come from a place of trauma and illness that affects one's very mind and how one thinks and is able to process information. It is unavoidable - but once one knows to look, to check one's own thinking, one can overcome the limitation. This is what the 6th core competency is all about and enables. This is why it was left out and why it must now be added.

Understand that It is from atop the shoulders of those that created the CASEL organization, that the key 6th competency can now be conveyed. The MOST IMPORTANT 6th CORE COMPETENCY MUST BE ADDED, AND SOON; WE ARE READY, thanks to their good works and efforts.

It is hard to see the "ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM" because we are standing on it - the number one core piece of knowledge that is central to coalescing one's knowledge is to understand ACE's, to be ACE's-Aware. The SIXTH CORE SEL COMPETENCY IS ACES-AWARENESS.

This (6)ACE's-Awareness is key to being able to heal one's self, meaning to have resilience and this knowledge is also key to enabling the healing to spread - to be able to pass on the benefits of said self-change and self-knowledge. In other words, to counter the behaviorally transmitted negative effects of trauma and ACE's with the behaviorally transmitted positive effect of knowledge. ACE's as the 6th CORE SEL COMPETENCY is needed to tap into and be able to behaviorally transmit a positive counter-effect the behaviorally transmitted neurotoxic effects of ACE's. One must be educated in ACE's to be able to see and know what it is that oneself and one's society is affected by and to overcome it. Knowledge of ACES must become a 6th CASEL Core Competency. Make it so. 

At one time we though witches and evil spirits caused the deaths we now know come from micro-organisms we now categorize as a disease. To defeat this "evil" we needed to understand it. The same is true if we wish to see an end to the statistic of 1 in 3 children sexually assaulted and 1 in 7 abused or neglected. This MUST happen.

You that read this must help, must be a part, by yourself seeing the elephant you stand upon. ACE's awareness is needed in order to "rise above" one's biology and that of one's society and culture - to no longer be confined by the black/white thinking that limits one to seeing things, one's self, and others in competitive terms of good and bad which way of seeing is itself the key feature of a traumatized mind.

ACE's means having a 'fixed' mindset - and instead through knowledge of ACE's to see be empowered to see things differently- to have what is called a 'growth' mindset. We are at the tipping point. It is time to step into self-awareness and rise above our biology and embrace not just our own individual biologies but to also see that Culture (too) is Biology. 



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