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SELing Out Iowa's Children - CASEL, Divisive Concepts & HF802

Updated: Mar 12

Will CASELS integration into Iowa Schools usher in the next BIG BLUE WAVE in IOWA? Is the IOWA GOP even aware of the danger?

CASEL's divisive concepts, which the Iowa Department of Education has adopted, seem to completely contradict Iowa Law.

In July of 2021, the Iowa Legislature passed legislation in response to divisive concepts and critical theory ideologies being taught in public school classrooms. The bill is referenced as HF802: Recently, the Iowa Department of Education adopted the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) framework and competencies for Social-Emotional Learning (SEL).

The CASEL framework, including transformative SEL promotes viewing the competencies through an "equity lens". In researching the CASEL web-site articles and the links to research supporting the program, it's apparent that CASEL's agenda is in complete opposition to the intent of our legislation, which was designed to protect Iowa's children from these divisive concepts and ideologies.

"Transformative" SEL was quietly adopted by CASEL in 2019. In a simple review on the Iowa Department of Education Website in the Seminal Research Section there is a reference article titled: Transformative Social and Emotional Learning (SEL): Toward SEL in Service of Educational Equity and Excellence. [Listen to an in-depth analysis of the paper]

Perhaps no one actually read the article referenced on the Iowa Department of Educations website, whose purpose is to support Iowa's adoption of SEL. It doesn't help that when you click the article link, it takes you to a preview of the abstract and you have to make a purchase to actually see behind the curtain and access the full article.

After examining the full article and comparing it to the standards outlined in HF802, it leads us to wonder how it's possible or at all acceptable for the Iowa Department of Education to promote CASEL in our public schools as a state standard.

The following are are a few details specific to HF802 which are clearly in contradiction to the concepts being promoted by CASEL.

HF802: An Act providing for requirements related to racism or sexism, trainings at, and diversity and inclusion efforts by, governmental agencies and entities, school districts, and public postsecondary educational institutions.

Below is Section 261H.7 of HF802 outlining divisive concepts in regard to: Race and sex stereotyping, training and curriculum prohibited.

“Divisive concepts” includes all of the following:

  1. That one race or sex is inherently superior to another race or sex.

  2. That the United States of America and the state of Iowa are fundamentally or systemically racist or sexist.

  3. That an individual, by virtue of the individual’s race or sex, is inherently racist, sexist, or oppressive, whether consciously or unconsciously.

  4. That an individual should be discriminated against or receive adverse treatment solely or partly because of the individual’s race or sex.

  5. That members of one race or sex cannot and should not attempt to treat others without respect to race or sex.

  6. That an individual’s moral character is necessarily determined by the individual’s race or sex.

  7. That an individual, by virtue of the individual’s race or sex, bears responsibility for actions committed in the past 6 by other members of the same race or sex.

  8. That any individual should feel discomfort, guilt, anguish, or any other form of psychological distress on account of that individual’s race or sex.

  9. That meritocracy or traits such as a hard work ethic are racist or sexist, or were created by a particular race to oppress another race.

  10. Any other form of race or sex scapegoating or any other form of race or sex stereotyping.

    1. “Race or sex scapegoating” means assigning fault, blame, or bias to a race or sex, or to members of a race or sex because of their race or sex, or claiming that, consciously or unconsciously, and by virtue of persons’ race or sex, members of any race are inherently racist or are inherently inclined to oppress others, or that members of a sex are inherently sexist 21 or inclined to oppress others

    2. “Race or sex stereotyping” means ascribing character traits, values, moral and ethical codes, privileges, status, or beliefs to a race or sex, or to an individual because of the individual’s race or sex.

The article speaks to CASEL competencies and CASAL's role in utilizing transformative SEL. There were a plethora of examples from the manuscript that we wanted to highlight but in an effort to be more concise we have managed to narrow it down to the following examples.

As you read the full article and/or the passages below please ask yourself these questions:

  1. Are the statements presented in support of SEL that is specifically referenced on the Iowa Department of Education website in alignment with HF802?

  2. How is it acceptable for the Iowa Department of Education to promote CASEL in our public schools when we have recently passed a law which prohibits teaching many of these concepts?

  3. Are these SEL principles what you want your children to learn in school? Social Justice, power, radical cultural oppression, and white privilege in the United States?

  4. What is the agenda behind the beliefs and values SEL programs address and wish to "transform" in our children?

  5. The ideologies presented in this article are based on Marxist and critical race principles. WHY are these principles and theories being adopted in public schools through CASEL supported SEL programs?

EXCERPTS FROM THE ARTICLE (referenced by the Iowa Department of Education): Transformative Social and Emotional Learning (SEL): Toward SEL in Service of Educational Equity and Excellence

  • "This article seeks to develop transformative social and emotional learning (SEL), a form of SEL intended to promote equity and excellence among children, young people, and adults. We focus on issues of race/ethnicity as a first step toward addressing the broader range of extant inequities. Transformative SEL is anchored in the notion of justice-oriented citizenship, and we discuss issues of culture, identity, agency, belonging, and engagement as relevant expressions of the Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning 5 core competencies."

  • "The concept of transformative SEL is a means to better articulate the potential of SEL to mitigate the educational, social, and economic inequities that derive from the interrelated legacies of racialized cultural oppression in the United States and globally. Transformative SEL represents an as-yet underutilized approach that SEL researchers and practitioners can use if they seek to effectively address issues such as power, privilege, prejudice, discrimination, social justice, empowerment, and self-determination. "

"Racialized oppression was foundational to the establishment of the United States and persists as a vexing, unresolved cluster of problems for sizeable portions of the population."

The following is a long excerpt, but again, this research is referenced as a source to support the adoption of SEL and the CASEL framework on the Iowa Department of Education website.

"In the United States and many other Westernized societies, there are dominant cultural themes of individualism and materialism that suggest that the primary meaning of “maturity, success and happiness” is defined as being “self-sufficient, autonomous and financially well off” (Way & Rogers, 2017, p. 229). Although this orientation has brought about technological advances that improved the basic material conditions for many, it also fosters elevated levels of greed, avarice, utilitarianism, and unethical behaviors (Piff, Kraus, C^ote, Cheng, & Keltner, 2010; Piff, Dietze, Feinberg, Stancato, & Keltner, 2015; Watson, 2016). This has, in turn, brought about the concentration of wealth in the hands of a decreasing percentage of people across the globe, a shrinking middle class, and an expanding number of working poor and poor (Ryan, Singh, Hentschke, & Bullock, 2018) .... Further, this cultural orientation helped launch, sustain, and exacerbate long-standing racial, class, and gender stereotypes that define prevailing notions of ingroups/outgroup relations. These stereotypes further inequities by allowing dominant groups, especially upper-income White people, to affix blame on the disadvantaged for their life circumstances; justify unearned privilege; and engage in dehumanization, commodification, and marginalization of large segments of the domestic and international populations (Goff et al., 2014; Salter & Adams, 2013).

Schools, like other mainstream U.S. cultural institutions, tend to reproduce these social arrangements. They prioritize prevailing middle-class American culture and can be thought of as offering a culturally relevant education (CRE) for White middle-income children and youth. Student success is narrowly defined in these terms, and variations from those normative patterns can result in culturally and linguistically diverse students being met with unwarranted low expectations, experiences of cultural mismatch, discrimination, microaggressions, and implicit biases by peers and adults."

The above passages were extracted from just the first three pages of the 24 page manuscript.

The article then goes on to talk about the Culturally Relevant Teaching (the new CRT) and being Culturally Responsive. Culturally relevant teaching was pioneered in 1995 by Marxist and Critical-Race education activist Gloria Ladson-Billings. That year she also wrote “Toward a Critical Race Theory of Education” and "Toward a Theory of Culturally Relevant Pedagogy.” This will be the topic for a future blog post.

THE ARTICLE CONCLUDES suggested NEXT STEPS, which includes further expanding the CASEL framework stating:

"Transformative SEL requires explicit critical examination of the root causes of racial and economic inequities to foster the desired critical self- and social awareness and responsible individual and collective actions in young people and adults. Programs and approaches that focus on identity development and/or systematic efforts to integrate issues of race, class, and culture into the academic content can have greater utility to the degree that they advance aspects of identity that comport with transformative SEL. Although considerable attention is given to historically disenfranchized groups, meaningful and sustainable change requires transformations in the ways in which those experiencing relative privilege understand themselves and their role in ameliorating inequities in interpersonal and institutional contexts (Jost, 2015; Seider, 2008)"

This article, promoted by the Iowa Department of Education and CASEL, is specifically referenced as a resource to support the need and value of SEL in the schools. It espouses Marxist philosophies and principles of systemic racial, economic and critical ideologies. The adoption of SEL also appears to be the gateway for other behavior management and mental health policies to be adopted. As stated on the Iowa DOE website:

"Iowa’s focus on Social-Emotional-Behavioral Health (SEBH), social and emotional competencies for both adults and students serve as a foundation for the development and implementation of policies, instructional practices, and discipline practices, as well as supports that embrace trauma-informed and cultural responsiveness*, as well as behavioral health supports.

*Culturally responsive, culturally relevant

PARENTS, are these the values and beliefs you feel support your child's "social and emotional" well being? Is it the role of the school, teachers, guidance counselors, and CASEL to be responsible for determining the beliefs and values that our children should have? Are you ok with Iowa's educators being tasked with delivering CASEL's emotional, psychological, and mental health programming to your children and then administering surveys whose results you don't have access to and then harvesting the data from those surveys to measure their success?

Give me just one generation of youth, and I’ll transform the whole world.” - Vladimir Ilyich Lenin

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  • Share this article with them and ask them why the Iowa Department of Education is supporting CASEL and "transformative" SEL when it so clearly contradicts HF802.

  • Ask them what they are going to do about the Iowa Department of Education and Iowa School administrators brazen disregard to HF802.

  • Ask them to direct the Iowa Department of Education to immediately discontinue the use of CASEL and of any data collection surveys that it's currently promoting to be administered to our children.

2. WE HAVE TO DO THE RESEARCH, WE HAVE TO BE DISCERNING, AND WE HAVE TO QUESTION: We realize it can be overwhelming. That's why we are working so hard to compile and share this information with you. In order to combat what is happening in our schools, we need to be educated. Just because something is stated in an academic journal or on a "respected" website doesn't mean that we should blindly accept it as truth. We need to be more diligent and discerning. We have to dive deeper and look behind the curtain. See examples in the "Reference" section at the end of the blog.

Is this an isolated article regarding Transformative SEL? The answer is NO.

There are so many articles about SEL, transformative SEL, and CASEL. Below are only a few from the many to be found. We challenge you investigate the CASEL site, research articles about SEL, follow the links and be critical of the sources. It can be overwhelming, so share your findings.


Join the conversation and stay connected:

ADDITIONAL REFERENCES and RESEARCH: Below are just a few examples of the authors and/or research articles that were citied and used as sources in the article

CITITATION 2: Jagers, R. J., Rivas-Drake, D., & Borowski, T. (2018). Equity and social-emotional learning: A cultural analysis. CASEL Assessment Work Group Brief series.

"White elites promulgated racialized and cultural stereotypes to recruit poor and working Whites into a hierarchical economic system that exploited them, but also empowered them to oppress and further exploit people of color. Meanwhile, these stereotypes inculcated within people of color a sense of dehumanization and willingness to accept marginalized status"

The citation references Allen, T.W. (2012). Invention of the White race.

A simple search on T.W. Allen indicates he is an anti-white supremacist, working class intellectual, activist, and member of the communist party. "He developed his pioneering class struggle-based analysis of “white skin privilege” beginning in the mid-1960s; authored the seminal two-volume “The Invention of the White Race” in the 1990s; and in his writings and speaking consistently maintained that the struggle against white supremacy was central to efforts at radical social change in the United States."

CITATION 3: Solorzano, D. G., & Delgado-Bernal, D. (2001). Examining transformational resistance through a critical race and LatCrit theory framework: Chicana and Chicano students in an urban context

Daniel Solorzano is a Professor of Social Science and Comparative Education, and Chicana/o and Central American Studies at the University of California, Los Angeles. He is also the Director of the Center for Critical Race Studies in Education at UCLA. His teaching and research interests include critical race theory in education; racial microaggressions; racial microaffirmations; and critical race spatial analysis. Dr. Solorzano has authored more than 100 research articles, book chapters, and books on issues related to educational access and equity for underrepresented student populations and communities in the United States.

CITIATION 4: Salter, P., & Adams, G. (2013). Toward a critical race psychology

"Instead, the solution to problems of racism requires dismantling the systems of privilege and corresponding ways of being that, although ostensibly neutral, bear the imprint of dominant-group understandings and systematically serve the interest of continued domination."

"A fourth tenet of a CRP analysis holds that White identity (and its cultural manifestations) is a profitable possession that brings benefits to the bearer (e.g., Harris, 1995). The White-washed character of mainstream institutions and conventional scientific wisdom is not accidental; rather, its emergence and persistence reflect a “possessive investment in whiteness”. One expression of investment in White-washed realities is in preferential reproduction of certain cultural-psychological forms rather than others. For example, our research on the cultural psychology of Black History Month displays indicates that White Americans prefer representations of history that emphasize individual triumph and celebration of diversity rather than representations of history that emphasize the Civil Rights movement to overcome barriers of systemic racism (Salter & Adams, 2013)."

"Because this premise is a starting point for any analysis, CRT moves conversations about racism past arguments about whether racism exists or not and into analyses of how it exists. Its directness has helped me be direct and open with teachers (and for them be the same with me) in challenging colorblind views"

"Interest Convergence - Bell (1995) rearticulates the Brown decision, re-historicizing the decision to show how it fit the interest of whites. This is his idea of interest convergence. Interest convergence in this sense means that whites will only allow decisions, such as changes in law, that benefit people of color if they are in the interests of whites, especially middle and upper class whites."


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