My wonderful, and now deceased, first wife used to tell me – endearingly – “How can somebody so smart in so many ways be so dumb in others?”
It’s my turn to ask that same question – minus the endearing tone – to David Brooks, who seems to lose any sense of rationality whenever he writes about education-related issues, as I’ve regularly pointed in this blog.
He seems to have a particular affinity for giving Social Emotional Learning a bad name (see With Friends Like David Brooks, Social Emotional Learning Doesn’t Need Any Enemies and David Brooks Gets It Wrong Again). In fact, it was one of his columns that inspired me to to call him and others advocates of the “Let Them Eat Character” philosophy in my Washington Post piece, The Manipulation of Social Emotional Learning.
He’s at it again in today’s column, titled The Choice Explosion.
After first making some excellent points about how people can improve their decision-making abilities, he suggests that a class on it should be included in schools. Of course, anyone teaching good Social Emotional Learning skills is already doing that, but I don’t have any problem with him making the suggestion.
Then, however, he says it’s especially important for “less fortunate” students because “the choice explosion has contributed to widening inequality.” On top of that, he justifies it by (mis)using important research (see The Best Articles About The Study Showing Social Emotional Learning Isn’t Enough) on the limiting effect poverty has been shown on “cognitive bandwidth,” while the researchers emphasized their public conclusions on the importance of anti-poverty programs.
Teaching social emotional learning skills must be paired with helping our students see the institutional obstacles they face to success and strategies – individual and collective – they can use to overcome them.
The next time David Brooks wants to write a column in The New York Times about effective strategies to reduce inequality, he might want to start off with reading The Best Resources About Wealth & Income Inequality and The Best Resources On Why Improving Education Is Not THE Answer To Poverty & Inequality.