Dr. James Lindsay: A Warning for Iowa Parents and Legislators
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James ended his comment on SF 85, one of Iowa's bills, designed to remove CASEL from the Iowa Department of Education, with the following warning to Iowans:
I will close my comments here with the following appeal: you should do everything you can to remove this dangerous poison, however pretty the box it is packaged in, from all Iowa schools under your jurisdiction with the greatest haste. To the degree this bill helps in that endeavor, it must be supported.
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Here are Dr. Lindsay's comments on SF 85
James Lindsay [New Discourses]
I'm writing to support this bill to block CASEL, SEL, and the related surveying from the Iowa Department of Education and, ideally, Iowa public schools. Social Emotional Learning itself, in its most general form, is an unnecessary intrusion into children's mental, social, and emotional lives and a potential threat against parental rights to direct the upbringing of their child.
It is simply not part of the education system's mandate to take such an active role in the raising of children they are tasked with educating, particularly in academic subject matter.
CASEL, however, does not present Social Emotional Learning in its most general form. Through the years since its founding at the Fetzer Institute, a New Age Spirituality Organization in Kalamazoo, Michigan, that seeks to combine science and spirituality into a single discipline and teach it to a new generation, CASEL's approach to SEL has evolved. Most recently, it has pushed for "systemic implementation" of "Transformative SEL," and any program reliant upon CASEL will eventually go in this direction. Systemic implementation refers to weaving SEL into every subject and all parts of the school experience, so all subjects will be taught through an SEL lens.
What this means in practice is that every subject will become SEL, which, in practice displaces class time and subverts the purpose of education. All CASEL SEL has been "critical" in its orientation for several years now, at least since 2015 (see below), but this refers to "critical pedagogy," which is a educational method, approach, and basis of content that is derived from Marxism.
"Transformative SEL" is explicitly critical in that it openly says its goal is to raise "critical consciousness," which is a term that means neo Marxist consciousness as it has been meant since the middle part of the 20th century. In fact, the word "transformative" in Transformative SEL means to transform the individual, society, and the world in line with Marxist Theory, though we must also leave room for John Fetzer's New Age spirituality and "Theory of Change" given CASEL's origins. To back this up, consider the words of CASEL officer emerita and longtime SEL advocate, including for education teams with the Biden and Obama Administrations, Linda Darling Hammond.
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In The Handbook of Social and Emotional Learning: Research and Practice (2015), Darling Hammond writes the following in the foreword: "As the contributors to this book show, there is a large body of scientific evidence demonstrating the positive outcomes of SEL and suggesting how these outcomes can be achieved. This scientific foundation challenges us to undertake a decidedly humanistic endeavor." To begin with, there is a bait and switch in this claim, as
the scientific evidence supporting SEL is NOT rigorous, is conflicted in its findings, and refers to programs implemented mostly before 2011, which cannot apply to CASEL's Transformative SEL in systemic implementation since those projects began in 2019.
In other words, at best, they're using heavily curated evidence to claim something about a much more modest product than the one they currently advocate. At worst, that "scientific evidence" does not exist and they're committing fraud, perhaps unintentionally, by claiming it. That, however, is beside the point.
Pick up a Copy of The Marxification of Education
What does Darling Hammond mean by "a decidedly humanistic endeavor"? She tells us, quoting Brazilian Marxist educator Paulo Freire, who argued throughout his entire life that education must be repurposed to raise a Marxist critical consciousness. She writes: "As Paulo Freire explained, humanization is the process of becoming more fully human as social, historical, thinking, communicating, transformative, creative persons who participate in and with the world. Educators, he argued, must listen to their students and build on their knowledge and experiences in order to engage in ... personalized educational approaches that further the goals of humanization and transformation (Freire, cited in Salazar, 2013, p. 126). Indeed, this is what we see in schools that successfully undertake the journey of becoming socially and emotionally educative.
"For CASEL officer emerita Linda Darling Hammond, even four years before Transformative SEL emerged at the heart of the CASEL program, "becoming socially and emotionally educative" was defined in explicitly Marxist terms following the work of an explicitly Marxist educator who believed the purpose of education is to "conscientize" students into a Critical Marxist consciousness. That was in 2015, before it became explicitly Marxist under "Transformative" branding.
People are free to believe this in the United States of America and the state of Iowa, but
it is a tremendous betrayal of the trust of parents to allow what provably amounts to a Maoist style Marxist brainwashing technique to systematically weave itself throughout every subject of the education system based on biased evidence and terrible arguments
like that the overwhelming majority of states and districts in the country already do it. (If all your friends jumped off a bridge, would you?)
The fact is that CASEL has seen such incredible widespread implementation because of a law called the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) they helped lobby to get in place in 2015. ESSA mandates reporting similar to that of earlier Common Core programs should schools wish to obtain federal dollars, but under ESSA schools must report on at least one *nonacademic* competency area in addition to everything else. CASEL helped push for this law and then sent its materials and consultants to school districts around the country to offer their SEL program as an easy means of satisfying this new crooked government funding requirement. In other words, SEL's widespread implementation, aside from any cultural madness we might be experiencing and any other corrupt dealings, can be explained almost entirely not on its merits but as a result of having lobbied to create a federal mandate for a product of its type.
Much more could be said about why implementing and supporting SEL is one of the gravest mistakes in American history.
In fact, once you get under the surface, it is virtually impossible to find any redeeming quality or honest brokering around it at all. For the sake of some brevity, however, I will close my comments here with the following appeal: you should do everything you can to remove this dangerous poison, however pretty the box it is packaged in, from all Iowa schools under your jurisdiction with the greatest haste. To the degree this bill helps in that endeavor, it must be supported.
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