Trading Academics for Far-Left ‘Social-Emotional Learning’ (SEL)

By Alex Newman | posted, 6-24-2024

The following is excerpted from Alex Newman’s book, Indoctrinating Our Children to Death: Government Schools War on Faith &  Freedom – and How to Stop it.

Academics are fast becoming a thing of the past in public schools.

In their place are behavioral psychology and “social and emotional learning” (SEL) designed not to educate but to transform children’s core values, attitudes, beliefs, and behavior.

Once upon a time, education meant learning how to read, write, do math, and think. It meant learning history and science as well.

That is barely happening now, as government data show.

Perhaps more importantly, once upon a time, school children all over the nation also learned the Ten Commandments—do not murder, do not lie, do not steal, and so on.

They learned the Golden Rule, too: Treat others as you want to be treated.

But those “good old days” are largely gone.

Today, government schools use advanced methods including SEL to instill in children a radical new and oftentimes contradictory “politically correct” value system: radical environmentalism, radical feminism, critical theory, Marxism, social justice, LGBTQ-plus, population control, socialism, hyper-racialism, class struggle, and more.

There’s also an occult connection to it all that would shock most secular observers—not to mention Christians, Muslims, Jews, and adherents of other traditional faiths.

SEL: The Mechanism for Transformation

In public schools across the United States today, from pre-K through 12th grade and beyond, children are being subjected to what is seemingly just the latest educational fad—silly, perhaps, but no more harmful than anything else—at least on the surface.

The education establishment refers to it as “social and emotional learning,” “social-emotional learning,” or just SEL for short. Generally they speak only in vague generalities using soothing language while dealing with the public.

And it’s true, some of what falls under the SEL umbrella is fairly harmless.

But then again, the food pellets that contain rat poison are fairly harmless, too—at least until the poison, which is just a trace component in the pellets, is digested by the intended victim.

Similarly, SEL all seems innocent enough at first glance.

“Social and emotional learning (SEL) is the process through which children and adults understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions,” explains the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL), one of the leading outfits promoting SEL.

The way proponents explain it, SEL is simply aimed to help children do well emotionally and succeed.

What could be wrong with that?

Well, CASEL’s website, a review of SEL programs, and educators themselves reveal a great deal more about the agenda. And it’s not pretty.

Political Extremism and Radical Values

Behind the nice public facade lurk swarms of psychologists, psychiatrists, “educators,” and radical leftists hoping to exploit a century of psychological research for the purpose of molding children’s beliefs and “deconstructing” the values parents seek to instill.

“With a growing number of partners, CASEL is creating a more comprehensive approach to education, one that will lead to a more equitable, just, and productive society,” the organization’s website boasts under the headline “SEL as a Lever for Equity,” hitting multiple key buzzwords associated with the far-left “social justice” movement.

In other words, one of the purposes of SEL—as its leading promoters admit—is to reform society.

Among the webinars offered there are “SEL as a Lever for Equity and Social Justice,” and also a lecture on how to use SEL to “support antiracist practices.” Another webinar outlines how to use policy to “dismantle inequities.”

Again, the leftist buzzwords are everywhere. And that isn’t an accident.

Under SEL Competencies, CASEL drops multiple bombshells acknowledging the far-left globalist indoctrination taking place under the guise of “social” and “emotional” learning.

“SEL competencies can be leveraged to develop justice-oriented, global citizens, and nurture inclusive school and district communities,” it states, adding that the programs will involve getting children to “assess power dynamics” and confront “issues of race and class across different settings.”

The children are also expected to “develop an understanding of systemic or structural explanations for different treatment and outcomes.”

In short, they are expected to believe the highly controversial hypothesis that America is awash in “systemic” and “structural” racism, and that only massive government-led social engineering can fix it.

The children are also expected to accept and agree with the artificial divisions being fomented along “race” and “class” lines as part of the now-obvious effort to “divide and conquer” America.

Put simply, this is all blatantly Marxist “critical theory” rhetoric masquerading as “education.”

It’s extremely dangerous.

In Practice, Educators Shine the Light

A review by The Epoch Times of a wide range of SEL programs used across the United States found that all contain similar extremism, along with highly controversial teachings on sex, sexuality, gender, race, racism, class, economic liberty, family, marriage, and more.

Interviews with educators and a review of their writings on the subject were also very revealing.

In short, the real goals of SEL go far beyond “helping” children socially and emotionally. And it isn’t difficult to find that out.

In fact, in practice, SEL is frequently and explicitly used in public schools to instill certain attitudes and values in children that many parents, if not most, would find controversial at the very least.

For example, public-school teachers in Florida, to comply with SEL mandates, were ordered to show a number of videos to their middle school students.

These included propaganda videos promoting homosexuality, bisexuality, transgenderism, “diversity,” “inclusion,” and more.

Regardless of one’s views on these subjects, countless parents—especially those from faith traditions including Christianity, Islam, or Judaism—would find the effort to obliterate traditional sexual morality and even biological sex in children’s minds to be objectionable.

Numerous other highly controversial political, religious, economic, and worldview positions are treated as “correct” by the forces behind SEL.

More than a few self-styled SEL educators are very open about how they intend to use SEL to brainwash children.

Open Circle Director Kamilah Drummond-Forrester, who supports “social and emotional development for children,” wrote openly at about weaponizing SEL to indoctrinate children with her hyper-racialist views.

“Teaching [white children] to be aware of their racial identity would allow them to better understand the privileges that accompany that identity,” she wrote, adding that this would help them dismantle the “concept of ‘whiteness.’”

“Social and emotional learning (SEL) has an important role to play in that education.

“One of the core competencies we focus on, as a necessary foundation for the others, is self-awareness. That self-awareness must include race,” she continued, without acknowledging that many parents probably don’t want their children obsessing about “race” or being propagandized by a far-left activist posing as an educator.

In an article for EdTech Magazine on peddling SEL to students amid coronavirus-inspired online learning, writer Adam Stone touts “SEL-oriented teaching materials from the Zinn Education Project.”

Howard Zinn, of course, is the far-left pseudo-historian whose dishonest and politically motivated narratives were most recently debunked by historian Mary Grabar in the book “Debunking Howard Zinn: Exposing the Fake History That Turned a Generation Against America.”

Zinn described himself as “something of a Marxist,” his biographer recounted.

According to EdTech, though, the “SEL-oriented” propaganda from Zinn is supposedly “aimed at nurturing empathy and compassion.”

In the real world, Marxism has everywhere and always nurtured hatred, death, slavery, torture, starvation, shortages, political repression, religious persecution, and other evils.

And yet under the guise of SEL programs and “nurturing empathy and compassion,” millions of children are having their minds poisoned by being force-fed actual Marxist propaganda and fake history.

And perhaps even more alarming, Stone urges educators to use surveillance tools that give “insight into students’ online behaviors—both inside and outside the virtual classroom—to enhance SEL.”

One of the recommended total surveillance tools offers educators “a holistic view of online activity across search engines, social media, email and web apps,” Stone said, adding that an artificial-intelligence engine would perform “real-time assessments” to “flag online behaviors that indicate emotional distress.”

As explained in an earlier segment of this series, Orwellian technology is used to monitor and track “progress” on adjusting children’s attitudes, too. That data is being compiled and saved forever under the label of “emotional intelligence.”

The Big Brother technology is also used to determine whether further “interventions” are needed to coerce the child into holding the desired attitudes, values, and beliefs about the issue in question.

And, as U.S. Department of Education documents make clear, it will also be used to predict “future behavior and interests” of the children.

Educators Speak Out

Of course, educators who have seen through the agenda reject SEL as a massive threat to America’s children.

One of those who spoke out against the SEL abuses taking place in her school, Jennifer McWilliams of Indiana, was even fired for being too vocal about it.

“The thing I find to be the most disturbing about social emotional learning is how well it disguises its true sinister motives,” she told The Epoch Times. “Parents do not understand that SEL psychologically manipulates children to question (and eventually rebuke) any Christian or conservative beliefs that may be taught in the home.”

While parents are led to believe that SEL is like teaching children The Golden Rule, “it is quite the opposite,” McWilliams said.

“Social emotional learning is rooted in progressive, social justice ideology that divides anyone who questions the radical groupthink agenda,” she said. “From my personal experience, not only do parents not understand it but teachers and administrators don’t either.”

SEL also represents the “brainwashing of our children,” McWilliams continued, noting that it trains children to “compromise on everything” with no consideration of what is taught in the home.

“These programs rely on a bombardment of propaganda, conditioning, and role playing to separate children from God and the nuclear family,” she said, saying SEL was the vehicle used to get children to accept as truth the narratives behind Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE) and Black Lives Matter (BLM).

The popular SEL program used in McWilliams’s school, Leader in Me, was designed to “shift the culture of the school to influence children’s morals and values based on progressive social justice standards,” she said, adding that it became ubiquitous on campus.

When she began publicly speaking out about it on social media, she was fired for supposedly making the school look bad.

“Parents must speak up and take back control of the influence in their children’s lives. If not, the kids will pay with their freedom,” McWilliams said.

The Occult Origins of SEL

The story behind SEL is even more troubling.

According to a history of SEL by CASEL, the term “social and emotional” originated in a meeting at the Fetzer Institute, a shadowy New Age powerhouse created by wealthy New Age guru and late media baron John Fetzer.

One of the founders of the SEL movement, David Sluyter, served as president and CEO of the organization.

“Our mission is to help build the spiritual foundation for a loving world,” the group states on its website, adding that it is working toward a “transformative sacred story for humanity in the 21st century.”

According to Brian Wilson’s book “John E. Fetzer and the Quest for the New Age,” Fetzer was, among other things, a public and fervent devotee of Alice Bailey, the controversial occultist who founded the Lucifer Publishing Company (now known as the Lucis Trust).

So obsessed was Fetzer with Bailey that he and his people would regularly recite her “Great Invocation,” which she claimed was given to her by spiritual beings known as “ascended masters,” Wilson documents in his book.

The Fetzer Institute didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. CASEL initially suggested it would make somebody available for an interview, but didn’t follow up despite multiple requests.

More than a few other prominent names in education were similarly enamored with Bailey’s bizarre teachings from supposed spiritual entities.

United Nations World Core Curriculum author Robert Muller, for instance, who served as assistant secretary-general of the U.N., said in the teachers’ manual that his U.N.-backed global school curriculum was based on the teachings of Bailey and one of her “ascended masters.”

The values being taught to children under Fetzer-inspired SEL programs feature remarkable similarities to those taught by John Dewey, a man almost universally known among educators as the founding father of America’s “progressive” education system.

Dewey, who was inspired by the Soviet educational system, was a co-author and signer of the Humanist Manifesto, a religious document rejecting God and prescribing collectivism as the cure for society’s ills.

For at least 12 years—more if they go to college—American children are indoctrinated into the collectivist values of Dewey’s religion, which was essentially just warmed-over communism and atheism hiding behind a religious facade.

Interestingly, as early as 1898, Dewey himself expressed an understanding of the need to utilize psychology, a discipline then still in its infancy, if the plan to re-shape Americans through “education” was going to succeed.

Even more interesting, perhaps, is the fact that Bailey, citing her ascended masters, recognized the importance of Dewey’s educational schemes in achieving her goal of a one-world order with a global religion.

“Our problem is to attain the kind of overall synthesis that Marxism and neo-Scholasticism provide for their followers, but to get this by the freely chosen cooperative methods that Dewey advocated,” Bailey wrote in her book “Education in the New Age.”

Funding and People

Even a brief review of the funding and individuals behind SEL also reveals a great deal about the agenda.

On its website, CASEL lists, among other financiers, billionaire Microsoft founder Bill Gates.

Gates, who has a friendly relationship with the Chinese Communist Party and its leader, Xi Jinping, put almost $300 million behind the Obama-backed Common Core standards, which formally nationalized and helped globalize America’s education system.

Before that, Gates signed a deal with UNESCO, the subject of part nine in this series, to work on globalizing the world’s education systems.

Also listed among the financiers of CASEL is Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors, which CASEL said “provides generous funding to CASEL to support school districts and their capacity to promote social and emotional learning.”

For some background, the recently deceased patriarch of the family, David Rockefellerwrote in The New York Times in 1973 that “the social experiment in China under Chairman Mao’s leadership is one of the most important and successful in human history.”

Rockefeller also boasted in his autobiography “Memoirs” of “conspiring” with a “secret cabal” of globalists, “against the best interests of the United States,” to build a “One World” political and economic system.

Aside from its financiers, CASEL’s leading super-stars also suggest something is amiss, to put it mildly.

Consider the involvement of radical Stanford educator Linda Darling-Hammond, a board member emeritus of CASEL and known associate of communist terrorist turned educator William Ayers.

Ayers’s Weather Underground group set off bombs across America in cooperation with communist Cuban intelligence. The FBI operative who infiltrated the group’s leadership, Larry Grathwohlrevealed that the organization’s leadership was plotting to exterminate millions of Americans in camps.

Interestingly, Darling-Hammond had an opportunity to test out her educational quackery unimpeded in the Stanford New Schools. The results are now in: In 2010, Stanford New Schools placed in the lowest-achieving 5 percent of schools in California, according to multiple reports.

More than a few other colleagues of Ayers are or were also involved with CASEL and SEL, with his University of Illinois at Chicago being central to the scheme. At least 3 of 13 members listed on CASEL’s website came from that university’s Department of Education and Psychology.

SEL was formally unveiled in the late 1990s. However, the real history behind it goes way back to Lev Vygotsky, a Soviet psychologist who studied how to effectively brainwash children to become good communists.

Vygotsky’s contributions in laying the foundations for SEL are widely acknowledged among practitioners and even in the academic literature (pdf).

Interestingly, Vygotsky was a close colleague of Ivan Pavlov, the Soviet psychologist famous for his behavioral-conditioning experiments on dogs.

Vygotsky had been inspired, in part, by American psychologist and educational researcher E.L. Thorndike, a student of close Dewey-ally and associate James McKeen Cattell of Columbia University.

In fact, Vygotsky wrote the foreword to the Russian translation of Thorndike’s “Principles of Learning Based Upon Psychology” published in Moscow in the mid-1920s.

Thorndike didn’t bother to conceal his views on education: Children should be educated like circus animals, and it should be so arranged that the child will be incapable of not doing what the trainer wants.

Vygotsky, too, had grandiose ideas about how Soviet “education” and “psychology” would be used to fundamentally transform the individual, and ultimately, mankind.

“It is education which should play the central role in the transformation of man this road of conscious social formation of new generations, the basic form to alter the historical human type,” Vygotsky wrote in 1930 in the journal of the All-Union Association of Workers in Science and Technics for the Furthering of the Socialist Edification in the USSR.

“New generations and new forms of their education represent the main route which history will follow whilst creating the new type of man,” he added.

SEL is simply the latest tool of the collectivist education establishment in its fiendish drive to create this “new type of man”—a collectivist man who will mindlessly submit to the tyranny of his overlords, without the intellectual ability to effectively resist.


Today, while most educators and parents have little understanding of what is going on, SEL has become ubiquitous in government schools across the nation.

National Education Association (NEA) Foundation Global Learning Fellow Wendy Turner, a second-grade teacher and self-styled “SEL warrior” quoted in an article on the NEA’s website, explained that SEL is now the top priority for schools.

“SEL is the foundation, the heartbeat of the classroom,” she said. “It’s about connecting everybody and making them feel safe and secure before you get to the academics.”

In a U.S. Department of Education report, a “review” of existing studies called for subjecting “the entire student body” to constant SEL programming “in order to reinforce social and emotional learning not only in the classroom but also on the playground, in the cafeteria, and in hallways.” Parents should also “reinforce” it at home.

But the facts are now clear: The SEL craze is an extreme threat to America’s youth—and to individual liberty.

The scheme isn’t about helping children at all. Instead, it’s about manipulating and conditioning America’s youth to hold the values and beliefs that the education establishment wants to instill.

Unfortunately, those values and beliefs are incompatible with individual liberty, Western civilization, the U.S. Constitution, the nuclear family, religious liberty, and other key values that underpin the United States.

Parents and policymakers must urgently protect the nation’s children from this dangerous threat.

This article was originally published by The Epoch Times, and is one report in a series of articles examining the origins of government education in the United States.

Alex Newman is an award-winning international journalist, educator, author, and consultant who seeks to glorify God in everything he does. In addition to serving as president of the small media and information consulting firm Liberty Sentinel Media, Inc, he has written for a wide array of publications in the United States and abroad. He currently serves as a contributor to WND (World Net Daily), an education writer for FreedomProject Media, a foreign correspondent for The New American magazine, a contributor to the Law Enforcement Intelligence Brief, and more. He has also written for numerous newspapers and magazines such as the…

Full bio and more from Alex Newman