and responsible decision making. This is something she told EdSurge that has been around for
decades. Cipriano says: “At the end of the day, we’re talking about teaching people how to be
better citizens and more positive contributors to their society.”
As early as 2014, educator Larry Ferlazzo was sounding the alarm in his editorial about how
social and emotional learning (SEL) — and its ancestor, character education — was being unduly
influenced by some in the education world. Few people would disagree. Those whom he identified
as manipulating SEL cross a wide variety of ideologies. Ferlazzo states: “Social Emotional Learning
has an important place in teaching and in learning. It’s also critical to remember that it has to be
kept in its appropriate place.” And the appropriate place is where the debate begins and ends.
Years ago, I remember a discussion with some fellow policy wonks on reading. The consensus
was that some children will fall through the cracks and never learn to read, which was something
I could not accept. I blurted out: “You care more about Johnny feeling good about himself, instead
of whether he can read or write.”
Don’t get me wrong, I do want children to have self-esteem and self-respect, but I also think it is
important that we do not lose focus on academic goals. That brings me back to the major point:
teachers are often not trained specifically to address some of the issues children face. To be
certain, educators innately encourage healthy social and emotional development in our children.
For any program to be successful, there must be complete transparency and community support
before implementing any formal SEL program. The creation of this type of climate will support
social and emotional learning to nurture emotionally intelligent children.
Tina Olesen, a school teacher in British Columbia wrote:
The way to help the child develop real self-control is tried and true: a caring adult
patiently and unflaggingly commits to the moral training of that child. Directing,
warning, correcting and disciplining day by day, hour by hour, moment by moment,
the adult encourages the child to do what is right, whether or not it feels good. When
a child consistently chooses to act in accordance with what is right, he develops
moral character. As he develops moral character, he becomes increasingly capable
of governing himself and applying himself to his studies, and he develops the self-
control required for learning. This can be a long and arduous process that requires
self-sacrifice and much patience on the part of a parent or teacher.
The truth is that we have to address so many issues in public education that we forget that parents
have the most important role in the moral formation of their own children. Teachers and families
should be partners in helping children succeed. Nevertheless, educators are forced to fill a gap
in which they may lack appropriate training, and in which assessment of success or failure is not
Quoting Henri-Frédéric Amiel, Oleson added, “The test of every religious, political or educational
system is the man which it forms. If a system injures the intelligence, it is bad. If it injures the
character, it is vicious. If it injures the conscience, it is criminal.” Whatever your opinion is on
this issue, the objective of improved academic achievement, positive behavior, and healthier life
choices is a worthy goal to pursue, at home, school, and in the community.