Getting Smart – Day Four – “Make Schools Great Again!”




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Dec 08, 2016
by Louise Hallman
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Getting Smart – Day Four – “Make Schools Great Again!”

Participants consider which arguments are most effective for promoting social and emotional learning with different stakeholders John Lotherington raises a laugh from Tonia Carasin

To promote social and emotional learning in schools, it is vital to secure the support of a wide variety of stakeholders from parents to policymakers – but how?

On the fourth day of Getting Smart: Measuring and Evaluating Social and Emotional Skills, in an effort to test their arguments and rhetorical skills, participants took part in a mock debate and prepared a mock memo to a so-far-unconvinced Minister of Education.

Those working to promote social and emotional learning (SEL) often face arguments against implementing SEL programs. Such arguments include:

  • “We’ve lost discipline and order! Children need to know their place... Life is tough, not ‘fun’ or ‘soft.’ Students need to be ready for that and have hard skills – not soft.” 
  • “Social and emotional learning programs are an invasion into our private lives. The moral education of our children is the responsibility and choice of parents, as well as churches and communities – not schools. Entrusting our children’s SEL development to schools makes them too powerful, and minimizes role of wider community.” 
  • “Data collection of personality tests leads to profiling! And these tests can faked or manipulated.”
  • “Social and emotional learning programs are promoting a liberal, globalized agenda, and trying to universalize morals and values.” 
  • “Schools are for teaching reading, writing and arithmetic; SEL programs take valuable time away from this.”

Knowing what reasoning can counter these arguments – and which messages resonate with different audiences – would help significantly advance SEL in schools, homes and the wider community. 

When dealing with politicians, key points to keep in mind are that the Minister of Education may not have much of a background in education (beyond their own personal experience many years ago) and politicians can often be short-sighted and more focused on their re-election than long-term change. Developing programs than can be easily explained and communicated to a wider public and offer some immediate evidence of improvement – while appealing to their ego and legacy! – might persuade skeptical ministers.

Download the full newsletter from Day 4

The Salzburg Global Session Getting Smart: Measuring and Evaluating Social and Emotional Skills is part of the Salzburg Global series Education for Tomorrow's World, hosted partnership with ETS. More information on the session can be found here: