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The Role Social-Emotional Learning Plays in Teaching White Children About Race

When you grow up white in America, you learn that you are simply American. If you’re not white, you learn that you have to qualify your identity: African American, Asian American, Latin American. Children pick this up at a very young age. Non-white children figure out that they are different, they are “other,” they are not the standard; the world was not designed for them. White children learn the opposite—that they are at the center and that others are defined by their difference.

Teaching [children] to be aware of their racial identity would allow them to better understand the privileges that accompany that identity, and to see how those privileges shape their lives and relationships. And if they were taught how the concept of “whiteness” was created, they could be on the lookout for ways to disrupt and dismantle the toxic racism that robs us all of our full humanity.

Social and emotional learning (SEL) has an important role to play in that education. At Open Circle, the evidence-based SEL program for school-age children that I direct, we work to develop children’s skills for recognizing and managing emotions, empathy, positive relationships, and problem solving. These competencies promote intrapersonal, interpersonal, and cognitive knowledge, skills, and attitudes that support lifelong success. One of the core competencies we focus on, as a necessary foundation for the others, is self-awareness. That self-awareness must include race.

Transformative SEL,” a concept developed by Dr. Rob Jagers of the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL), elevates the importance of calling out and attending to racial identity within the field of SEL.

The Center for Reaching & Teaching the Whole Child (CRTWC) also integrates SEL and equity, focusing on bringing SEL skills together with culturally responsive teaching practices. It points out that cultural competency is as important as social and emotional competency when it comes to providing a foundation for academic achievement and lifelong success.

These organizations have led the way in thinking about how SEL should incorporate race and equity. Now we must do the work of transforming these theories into action. Integrating SEL and equity needs to be a priority as we consider how education must change in response to the challenges we face.

We must take an integrative approach that calls on the leadership, expertise and lived experiences of BIPOC who are not often elevated as the experts in this field, but who have done this work in communities for generations.

Excerpted from “The Role Social-Emotional Learning Plays in Teaching White Children About Race” in EdSurge. Read the full article by Kamilah Drummond-Forrester, Director of Open Circle.

Source: EdSurge | The Role Social-Emotional Learning Plays in Teaching White Children About Race, https://www.edsurge.com/news/2020-08-02-the-role-social-emotional-learning-plays-in-teaching-white-children-about-race | © 2011-2020 EdSurge Inc.

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