School & District Management Letter to the Editor

Aspen Falls Short on SEL

February 26, 2019 1 min read

To the Editor:

The post about the long-awaited Aspen Institute National Commission on Social, Emotional, and Academic Development report (“Set Social-Emotional Learning Benchmarks to Guide Efforts, Commission Recommends,” January 15, 2019) attempted to find something inspiring, important, and new about its recommendations.

Unfortunately, the most noteworthy and bold idea in the report is what the post points out: “Their vision: bold changes in education to help schools be more responsive to students’ social and emotional development and, in the process, to see academic gains.”

Note the emphasis upon “academic gains” which is neither the intent nor the guiding purpose of social-emotional learning.

I believe this report and its recommendations are nothing more than “whole child” redux. Neither Aspen’s recommendations nor the whole-child work done by ASCD and CDC’s Healthy School focus on the inner life or self of the child. Therefore, this report and the blog post contribute to the ongoing confusion around social-emotional learning, and do nothing to clarify how to improve children’s mental-health and well-being through schooling.

The robust body of work addressing the social-emotional learning needs of children and adolescents has certainly advanced with the application of positive psychology.

Social-emotional learning best practices have advanced further than this report described. Best practices from CASEL, Penn State’s Bennett Prevention Center, and the Center for the Self in Schools are widely available to teachers, school counselors, and leaders who want to impact the mental health and well-being of children through education in addition to clinical settings normally outside of school.

Aspen authors can do better, don’t you think?

Henry G. Brzycki


The Brzycki Group & The Center for the Self in Schools

State College, Pa.

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A version of this article appeared in the February 27, 2019 edition of Education Week as Aspen Falls Short on SEL


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