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About The Transformative SEL Program "Second Step"

October 8, 2022
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A letter Recently Sent To The Greenwich Board Of Education

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Greenwich Superintendent Toni Jones included information about the transformative social-emotional learning program (SEL) used by the district, Second Step, in the Family Note this week.

Second Step Elementary allegedly offers an evidence-based approach to social-emotional learning, with age-appropriate lessons.  Dr. Jones specifically included the link to the research that supposedly backs this program, so we decided to follow the link.

The website starts with assertions that Second Step is grounded in research and committed to continuous improvement.  Then it offers links so you can jump straight to various research articles.  This includes a section entitled, "Approaching SEL Through an Equity Lens”… of course, many people immediately recognize the “equity lens” a warning sign of hidden critical race theory(CRT).

Second Step believes that it’s critical for teachers and education leaders to be intentional about implementing SEL, while always keeping equity in mind.  A report called " Toward Transformative Social and Emotional Learning: Using an Equity Lens” is meant to help guide those implementing SEL.  (On a side note, the research is hosted on a website called “measuring SEL” which is about assessing students on SEL, collecting and using that data.)

Transformative SEL is defined as, "a process whereby students and teachers build strong, respectful relationships founded on an appreciation of similarities and differences; learn to critically examine root causes of inequity; and develop collaborative solutions to community and social problems.”  This type of SEL is based on the CASEL framework which breaks down SEL into 5 core competencies:  Self Awareness, Self Management, Responsible Decision-Making, Social Awareness and Relationship Skills.

Unfortunately, these core competencies are not as innocent as they might sound.

Self Awareness and Self Management force children to assume a personal and social identity through the equity lens. They 

are exposed to narratives that label their identity as privileged or oppressed. These competencies exploit a child's natural empathy to regulate their emotions through the thought reform process.

Responsible Decision-Making requires children to make personal decisions, in accordance with their identity, through the equity lens, in order to transform their role in systemic oppression.  Their decisions are chosen to advance collective needs over individual needs.

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Social Awareness and Relationship Skills are meant to activate children to identify privileged groups versus oppressed groups.  Children are trained to build relationships for collectivism and form an army of “social change agents” who will divide and dismantle inequitable systems (e.g, America).

Again, it’s hard to see how Superintendent Jones is not implementing the tenets of CRT in Greenwich Schools when that is exactly what is described by the Second Step materials she directly referenced in the Family Note.

Does she think that parents are too stupid to figure it out?  Does she not understand what the tenets of CRT look like in practice?  Or is she just implementing her own agenda by using transformative SEL curriculum that was never explicitly approved by the Board of Education?

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