From Yahoo News:
Tue, April 6, 2021, 7:01 PM·19 min read
"A lot of Yahoo News content is reprinted from other sources. This originally comes from The 74, which I’d never heard of before. The article explains Disclosures: The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation provides financial support to RULER and The 74. The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative provides financial support to the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence and The 74."
As schools across the country grapple with issues of historical discrimination, the director of a prominent SEL [Social Emotional Learning] program argued that some inclusion efforts could get its curriculum “banned,” according to emails obtained by The 74.
Attending a mostly white boarding school in Connecticut allowed Dena Simmons to escape the danger of her poor, Black and Latino neighborhood in the Bronx, New York. But it also separated her from her culture and made her feel like she didn’t belong. “There is emotional damage done when young people can’t be themselves,” she said six years ago during a TED Talk that has received almost 1.4 million views.
That’s why Simmons, who became assistant director of the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence in 2018, worked to make the center’s popular K-12 program on understanding feelings more meaningful for marginalized students. She pushed to include figures such as former President Barack Obama
You can’t get much more marginalized than Barack Obama.
Did Obama say he’d show up? Or did the date interfere with the arrival of his copy of New York Review of Books on Martha’s Vineyard?
and girls’ education activist Malala Yousafzai in lessons and challenged teachers with bold statements about schools being systems of white supremacy.
It’s almost as if the black woman wanted the job of her white male boss.
“The political examples automatically alienate people (Black or white) and we can’t judge people for being Democrats or Republicans,” Brackett wrote Simmons in one of several emails and documents shared with The 74.
His insistence on staying on the political sidelines ran afoul of Simmons and others at the Yale center who viewed his stance as tone deafness toward issues of historical injustice. Their lessons — for example, using a book about a transgender boy to teach about feeling understood — might get the curriculum “banned” in some parts of the country, Brackett said in one email. The conflict has put the center in the middle of a controversy that has rippled from the university to the larger world of what has come to be known as social-emotional learning.
Simmons, 37, resigned from her position in January, seven months after she was targeted by anonymous racial slurs during an online Yale event to memorialize the death of George Floyd. She left, she told the university at the time, due to a “hostile work environment” at the center, where she was subjected to “unconsented hair touching”
Here’s a technical question: is the Great Hair-Touching Crisis of Our Times funnier each time I cite another example of it, the way the “cleft stick” joke is funnier each time Waugh brings it up again in Scoop? Or is enough enough and hair-touching is into diminishing returns?
My thinking has been that I’ll begin phasing it out when lots of other sources start pointing it out. But so far, I don’t believe even the Babylon Bee has made it a Thing.
and once received a reprimand from a supervisor for calling out social-emotional learning practices she viewed as harmful to students of color.
In interviews, four other former staffers supported her account, describing what they saw as an unwelcome atmosphere at the center toward issues of diversity and inclusion.
“There was no emotional intelligence afforded me,” Simmons told the 74. “I hope to push the field and institutions to do better — to put their actions where they say their values are.”
In a lengthy statement on her resignation sent to roughly 2,500 schools and organizations it works with around the world, center leaders said they were “deeply disheartened by our colleagues’ hurtful experiences at Yale.” …
In many ways, the Yale schism reflects the enormous growth social-emotional learning has experienced since the term’s first invocation at a 1994 conference. Today, the concept is ubiquitous. It is not unusual for large school districts to have whole departments devoted to helping students form positive relationships, manage difficult emotions and make sound decisions. It’s also big business, drawing $21 billion to $47 billion annually on programs and teacher training, according to a 2017 report.
Yowza. $21 billion to $47 billion here, $21 billion to $47 billion there …
While some criticize the field for “fuzzy” definitions and unclear targets, a formidable body of research now says social-emotional learning can improve social behavior and lead to long-term academic success.
I doubt that, but it sounds too boring to look into. In an era when practically anybody with anything on the ball is competing to be seen as hating white people the most, programs like Brackett’s that aren’t explicitly anti-white seem pretty anodyne even if they may be a waste of money.
…The Yale center, which sits in the medical school, draws in millions of dollars in grants, including at least $5 million in research funding from the U.S. Department of Education since 2012. It has even earned the endorsement of current Secretary Miguel Cardona. As state chief in Connecticut, he hired Brackett’s center to give all educators in the state access to a 10-hour course, funded in part with $500,000 from Dalio Education, a state foundation. CASEL cites RULER as an example of a program based on research, and Brackett sits on its board.
He has also brought to the field pop-culture cachet. He teamed up with Lady Gaga in 2015 for a summit on how teens feel about school and appears frequently on TV talk shows. Even parents who don’t know RULER or recognize Brackett’s name are familiar with the “Mood Meter,” which teaches children to associate feelings with colors. The resulting boards of multi-hued Post-it Notes produced by parents and teachers have become mainstays on Pinterest.
A former middle school math and English teacher in the Bronx, Simmons joined the center in 2014. She believed in its mission and called the opportunity “a dream come true.” Her doctoral studies had focused on how middle school teachers can address bullying. Now, she wanted to help schools become more compassionate places for marginalized students.
But as the program grew, so did Simmons’s view that the center’s leaders saw equity as an “add-on.” She became convinced that common practices in social-emotional learning, such as taking deep breaths in times of stress, wouldn’t serve students of color well.
“Try telling a child in poverty to breathe through racism,” she said in an interview. “That is insulting.”
Would you have wanted Trayvon Martin or Michael Brown or George Floyd or Philip Adams or Noah Green or Ahmad Al Aliwi Alissa to have controlled their emotions? I don’t think so.
She recruited others with classroom experience to the center and blended Learning for Justice’s Social Justice Standards — like showing “empathy when people are excluded or mistreated” — into RULER materials.
Susan Rivers, who co-founded the center with Brackett in 2013, recalled that Simmons “emerged as an education leader, despite not having the support, encouragement or collaboration to do anti-racist, inclusive work while at Yale.”
“She asks really tough and essential questions about equity in education, and she has the courage and conviction to do and lead the work,” said Rivers, who left the center in 2016 and now runs iThrive Games, a foundation that supports game-based learning for teens.
That quality often put Simmons at odds with the center’s leadership. In commentaries such as 2019’s “Why We Can’t Afford Whitewashed Social-Emotional Learning,” she argued that sidestepping the “larger sociopolitical context” in which students live keeps them from developing skills to confront hate and injustice. Ignoring that background, she said, could turn their teachings into “white supremacy with a hug.” That statement, she said, earned her a warning from Linda Mayes, director of the Yale Child Study Center that oversees the emotional intelligence program, to be more careful with her words....
Medved-Wu noted the irony of a workplace devoted to emotional intelligence where many workers felt uncomfortable sharing their emotions.
“If Black employees, non-Black employees of color, employees who have self-identified as LGBTQ+and employees with disabilities do not feel safe, valued or heard in-house,” she asked, “then what biases and messaging are being sent locally and globally?”
She also proposed a fifth-grade lesson about The Other Boy, the book about a transgender child that sparked pushback from Brackett. “We can’t be in a position that our curriculum is banned,” he wrote in an email to Simmons and other staff members. “We have to be neutral.”
No one is allowed to be neutral.
… To the bewilderment of some staffers, Brackett appeared to have no resistance to such themes in his personal life. Brackett, who is gay, supports finding ways for young people “pushing the boundaries of gender/sexual identity” to feel accepted, and he recently completed a documentary with his cinematographer husband on a camp for youth devoted to “exploring gender diversity.”
But inside the center, staff members say they heard a different message. “I recall him frequently emphasizing … that the appeal of our work had to be for everyone,” said Sarah Kadden, a former program manager for early childhood.
The I in DIE doesn’t mean “inclusion” for the Wrong People, just for the Right People.
Simmons and Medved-Wu suspect Brackett’s motivation for keeping the lessons free of controversy was financial.
Could it also be true that Ms. Simmons is projecting her own financial motivations?
A six-week training institute for three district staff members costs $6,000.
“If RULER were to be banned, it would impact the bottom line,” Simmons said.
The issue most important to Simmons — equity — was where she felt the least support. She had been pushing for years to brand the term into the center’s mission statement. In 2019, Brackett proposed in an email that she “create the vision … for how we infuse equity/culturally responsive practices, etc. into our training and curriculum.” By that point, Simmons said, the center was sending mixed messages, pushing inclusion while resisting her attempts to broaden the curriculum. In one email, she told Brackett that she did not want to become “a prop” for the center’s work on diversity.
“We were discouraged from raising equity issues, such as the school-to-prison pipeline, racist discipline practices [and] the cultural mismatch often found between students and teachers,” said Kadden, now a social worker in Connecticut’s New London Public Schools.
Then came the Zoom bomb.
On May 25, the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody sparked an outcry in cities and campuses across the country. In early June, thousands of Black Lives Matter protesters flooded the streets of New Haven, where Yale is located, presenting a list of demands, including the removal of resource officers from local schools. Weeks later, during an online event devoted to racial healing held by Yale’s Child Study Center, Simmons was reading a poem when several anonymous gate-crashers interrupted her with racial slurs, both verbally and in the chat field. Simmons logged off of the event, which was not password protected, but returned at the urging of colleagues. The harassment resumed.
In its statement, the Yale emotional intelligence center decried the “horrific, racist Zoom bombing” and said it had taken steps to curb its online “vulnerabilities.” Leaders have offered workshops on cultural sensitivity, hired a chief diversity officer and scrutinized RULER to “ensure it is equitable and inclusive,” the statement said.
It sounds like Zoom bombers may have gotten what they wanted …
But Simmons, who took a seven-month medical leave
The emotional labor left her exhausted.
, said the experience followed a pattern of incidents in which she felt dehumanized, such as colleagues touching her hair and calling it exotic. She left the university Jan. 19, the day she was supposed to return.
For those who view Simmons as a leader, not only in social-emotional learning but in the broader anti-racist movement, her departure raises troubling questions. …
With Yale behind her, Simmons is free to approach social-emotional learning her way.
She has launched LiberatED — a curriculum with equity at the center — and next year, St. Martin’s Press will publish her book, White Rules for Black People. “I needed my voice to ring louder than other people’s doubts, slights and limitations,” she wrote recently. “I left so that I could save myself, so that I could dream. And I left so that I could invest my time into changing the very system that failed me and is failing so many others.”
… Echoing Simmons’s concerns, Drummond-Forrester said the responsibility for equity work fell on her shoulders because she is Black.
“I was burned out,” she said.