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Is Social-Emotional Learning the Trojan Horse of Marxism?

Some of you are confused already, so let me define some terms:

Social-Emotional Learning (SEL), according to the non-profit organization Committee for Children, “is the process of developing the self-awareness, self-control, and interpersonal skills that are vital for school, work, and life success.”[1]

The Trojan Horse is a story of the Greek conquest of the city of Troy, wherein the Greeks pretended to give a large wooden horse as a peace offering to the citizens, only for them to discover it was filled with soldiers who ultimately jumped out of the horse and conquered the city.

Marxism is a worldview promoting socialism in the place of free enterprise. Critical theory is the modern-day iteration of Marxism informing progressive political views. Critical theory uses SEL in some of its training programs.

The stated principles of SEL are: Self-awareness: The skill of having knowledge of one's own emotions and developing a positive self-concept.

Self-management: The ability to regulate one's own emotions and monitor one's own behaviors. This also pertains to intrinsic motivation and setting personal goals.

Social awareness: The ability to have awareness of the emotions and social situations of others.

Relationship skills: The skill to foster relationships and communicate within them.

Responsible decision-making: The ability to solve problems and hold one's self accountable.

Now that we’ve defined the terms and principles, let me be clear that, speaking of horses, I have a horse (or two) in this race. A good friend of mine works for Friendzy, a company that produces biblical SEL curriculum for Christian schools. I’m also a conservative concerned about aspects of far-left progressivism, or “wokeness” as it is called. If my friend is a purveyor of what I consider bad ideology, I want to know it.

But I’ve found the opposite. Every time my friend shares samples of the Friendzy curriculum with me, I’m impressed with how biblical it is. Isn’t treating one another with love and respect Jesus’ idea? (John 13:34, 1 Peter 4:8, Ephesians 4:32, Luke 6:31, Colossians 4:6) Didn’t James teach empathy when he said we should be quick to hear and slow to speak? (James 1:19). Doesn’t the Bible command us to manage our emotions rather than leaving them to “manage” us (Proverbs 16:32)?

The following is a list of common objections to SEL along with my thoughts in reply.

SEL is the Trojan Horse of Marxism- The idea is that an apparently innocuous gift becomes a vehicle for destruction. And it may be true that highly-calculating cultural Marxists are using SEL to lure people onto their side of the culture war. But should that lead us to reject what’s good and right about SEL? This taboo mentality replaces critical thinking with mind-numbing paranoia and ultimately insults people’s ability to use their God-given skills of discernment.

If Marxists use it, we shouldn’t- Taboos exclude the good along with the bad. How far will we take this principle? Should we stop using good oral hygiene because Marxists brush their teeth? Or, closer to home, should we let kids pound each other on the playground because SEL teaches bullying prevention?

SEL replaces pedagogy with therapy- Has the point of good education ever been only cerebral? The biblical school of the prophets (1 Samuel 19:18-24) taught character and conduct lessons. God has always been concerned with the whole person (1 Thessalonians 5:23). Christian schools should be the head and not the tail of teaching young people how to manage emotions and build healthy relationships. And to set the SEL-suspicious at ease, this will only enhance students’ ability to learn.

Here's a shocker for the conscientious: To push back against these principles is to not protect, but oppose biblical truth. If Christians had drawn these truths out of the Bible, developing them into a curriculum before secular progressives did, we’d have better fulfilled Jesus’ admonition to be the light of the world. Paul said God gave the gospel to the Gentiles (the non-religious) to provoke the Jews (the religious) to jealousy. Freindzy has not erred, it has stepped into a gap created by Christians’ neglect of the deep principles of the gospel! They are salting the earth as Jesus said believers should (Matthew 5:13-16), offering common grace to every student they touch.

I pray that every child with a chaotic home life will have Friendzy to help them manage their overwhelming, learning-disrupting emotions. I think of children struggling to make friends, children with physical and learning disabilities, children facing medical diagnoses, children with character deficits but a willingness to grow. They need this curriculum in order to learn. I think of how I was bullied as a child and how such a curriculum may have prevented some of the most traumatic events of my life. Why oppose the gospel in action? Let the Marxists use it all they want. Discerning Christians will know where to draw the line. God forbid we should be found opposing something God is trying to use.

To put it in classroom language, those opposing Friendzy can take a seat.


[1],academically%2C%20professionally%2C%20and%20socially. [2]

1 comment

1 Comment

Gale White
Gale White
Oct 23, 2023

I trained as Infant mental health specialist and SE development was promoted and emphasized in all our treatments. I believe in SEL as I found it to be consistent with some writings of EGW in her books of Education, Adventist home, and Mind Character and Personality. Children of today need to master SE skills since they are bombarded by so much SE disrupting influences driven by technology and media. Adults need SEL to address their own emotional dys-regulation due to same technology and media influences. I liked the SEL principles as it has helped me understand others better, and to address my own social-emotional needs.

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