As the president of Dothan’s Eagle Forum, whose purpose is promoting and protecting faith, family and freedom, several members of the local Eagle Forum and I recently attended the May 13 meeting of the Dothan City School Board. We are concerned that Alabama ranks 52nd in the nation, behind school systems run by 49 other states, that Alabama’s fourth-grade scores ranked 47thand eighth-graders ranked 50th regardless of improved letter grades on report cards handed out by the state.
There were three items on the agenda that are of great concern that need to be openly publicized, discussed, and debated at future meetings, especially with parents.
1. SEL, Social and Emotional Learning as a new direction for Dothan Preparatory School
Teachers from Dothan Preparatory presented a slide show filled with Affective (attitudes, beliefs and feelings) declarations from students and teachers regarding their positivity about the future goals for Dothan Preparatory. (They want more field trips!) Social and Emotional Learning will be a centerpiece of their curriculum.
“Critics have derided SEL as, for example, a “nonacademic common core” (Gorman, 2016); “the latest big education fad” (Robbins, 2016); a terrifying experiment in social engineering (Eden, 2019), and an “Orwellian idea” (Effrem, 2017). Writing in Education Week, Chester Finn (2017) equated SEL to the “self-esteem” movement, calling it a hoax, with roots in “faux psychology.” In a recent white paper, the Pioneer Institute urged policy makers to block SEL-related programs, warning that they could lead to the psychological manipulation of students, threats to their data privacy, “indoctrination,” and an “erosion of freedom of conscience via government-established SEL norms for the attitudes, values, and beliefs of freeborn American citizens” (Effrem & Robbins, 2019, p. 32).” (https://kappanonline.org/another-education-war-social-emotional-learning-debates-zhao/
Teachers are not psychotherapists. They have no idea what the consequence of a lesson directed toward an entire class might be on the individual child.
Years ago, the Osmond family and Encyclopedia Britannica teamed up to produce a film about bullying. In the film a child attempted to hang himself because he was bullied. Fortunately he was discovered before he succeeded and then others were kind to him. Second grader Stephen Nalepa saw the film and went home with new ideas about how to address his own bullying situation. Sadly, he succeeded in hanging himself.
Alabama now ranks 52nd out of 50 states academically (including Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico).”
Joy Pullman writes in the Federalist, “…here we have government demanding that young people exhibit certain feelings and social behaviors, and if they don’t, their schools could be dinged for it. That’s not only manipulative, but creepy.
“[T]his is all about psychologically and emotionally manipulating children in order to push a certain political agenda,” she argues.
2. Common Core Distance Learning through infamous Edgenuity.
We were surprised to see Edgenuity on the agenda considering the fact that former Speaker of the Alabama House, Mike Hubbard, was convicted of ethics violations for taking $210,000 to lobby for them. The court upheld charges against Hubbard regarding his consulting contracts with Edgenuity, Inc., an education software firm.
Dothan City Schools boast on its website that Edgenuity is “aligned to state standards, the Common Core, and NGSS.”
As to this “virtual” curriculum, students figured out their tests were graded by AI (Artificial Intelligence), reports Monica Chin in The Verge. “…and the easy way to cheat.” Then according to Francesca Paris, they learned to “game the grade.”
3. Climate Change Agenda
Another concerning issue is the decision of the acting superintendent to follow the Climate Change Agenda and use students to engineer solar energy to power our schools. He also plans to purchase electric buses for which special refilling stations will have to be built. What happens on a field trip if other systems are not so “progressive” and don’t have recharging stations?
Did Dothan parents vote to allow our teachers control over our children’s social and emotional health?
How did Edgenuity come to be on the agenda for Dothan City Schools? Was research done on where it had been used before and how effective it was academically?
What about the shift from traditional fuel to alternative energy? Will this shift be economically feasible considering the expense to achieve this shift? How about installing seat belts to make the buses safer for our children instead?
Has any of this been proven to work effectively elsewhere or are we to be a pilot program?
Alabama now ranks 52nd out of 50 states academically (including Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico). Do we really think this will address the academic shortfalls of our schools?
Attending that meeting was quite educational. I hope others will choose to attend the next.
Sharman Ramsey is president of Dothan’s Eagle Forum.