The fallout from parents becoming more involved in their children’s schools has now expanded to include concerns over mental health programs and how some schools are apparently indoctrinating kids with leftist dogma when it comes to “mental health.”
There are many issues that fall under “mental health.” Some, like recognizing the signs of suicide and depression are clearly the purview of school counselors. But when high school guidance counselors use “mental health” to disguise the indoctrination of students, parents have a perfect right to stand up and protest.
Some school districts appear to be “fishing” for students whom they can “help” with mental problems.
Many of the school programs under attack fall under the umbrella of social emotional learning, or SEL, a teaching philosophy popularized in recent years that aims to help children manage their feelings and show empathy for others. Conservative groups argue that social emotional learning has become a “Trojan horse” for critical race theory, a separate academic concept that examines how systemic racism is embedded in society. They point to SEL lessons that encourage children to celebrate diversity, sometimes introducing students to conversations about race, gender and sexuality.
Activists have accused school districts of using the programs to ask children invasive questions — about their feelings, sexuality and the way race shapes their lives — as part of a ploy to “brainwash” them with liberal values and to trample parents’ rights. Groups across the country recently started circulating forms to get parents to opt their children out of surveys designed to measure whether students are struggling with their emotions or being bullied, describing the efforts as “data mining” and an invasion of privacy.
Call it what you want; it sounds a lot like “brainwashing.” NBC is exaggerating but what’s at the root of this controversy is the breakdown in trust between the schools and the parents, with the schools digging in their heels on issues like CRT and “emotional learning” regardless of what the parents think.
Encouraging children “to celebrate diversity, sometimes introducing students to conversations about race, gender and sexuality” is something that should be introduced in partnership with parents. But with both sides currently at war, such a partnership would be impossible.
Related: Conservatives: Never Give Up the Fight to Shape Kids’ Education
Asra Nomani, a former New York Times writer and now an activist for parents, supports schools focusing on character development and emotional well-being but opposes the SEL method because she says it’s been “hijacked” by the radical left.
“It took a turn in the summer of 2020, after the tragedy of George Floyd’s killing,” said Nomani, a leader of Parents Defending Education, an activist group that criticizes school diversity and equity efforts. After that, she said, social emotional learning “became a vehicle for this quote-unquote ‘social justice activism’ and the indoctrination of controversial ideas related to race, sexuality and even gender and identity.”
The radicals who teach “emotional learning” and disguise their teachings on race, gender, and sexuality within that context need to be called out and identified. Mental health programs have real value in being able to identify potential problems in children and young adults — as long as the counselor is trained in such observations.
They should not be used to advance radical theories on the sly.
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