You will find no more forceful advocate than me for teaching Social Emotional Learning Skills in schools — I’ve written three books on the topic and have posted multiple related “Best” lists.
I’ve also written, and spoken, about how some SEL advocates (including David Brooks and KIPP Charters) are using it inappropriately as a “Let Them Eat Character!” approach that doesn’t recognize the assets our students bring (it’s not an issue that our students don’t have self-control and grit – many have them in huge amounts and may just need some assistance in applying those qualities in academic ways) and acts as a substitute for providing adequate economic and political support to our students, their families and our schools (see my Washington Post piece titled The Manipulation of Social Emotional Learning and my post The Best Articles About The Study Showing Social Emotional Learning Isn’t Enough).
This week’s CNN segment, Can Grit Be Taught? (embedded below), shows how seductive that “Let Them Eat Character!” approach can be – all it takes is a bit of grit and self-control and things will be fine. It demonstrates no recognition of the broader socio-economic challenges facing students and their families.
I respect Professor Duckworth’s work, and appreciate her recent attempts to rein in over-zealous uses of her work (see Measurement Matters….Maybe Not So Much). Perhaps she is really trying to communicate a more nuanced approach and the media, not known for its appreciation of nuance, is not going for it.
If she’s trying, I just hope she starts trying harder….
Strangely, CNN deleted the video from it’s YouTube account, but you can still see it on their website (though it’s not embeddable).