Proposed standards for K-12 social-emotional education are expected to be a hot topic at Tuesday’s Missouri Board of Education meeting. The board is scheduled to decide whether to approve the standards that are designed to help public school students develop interpersonal skills for relationships, school, and the future workplace.

A department survey with 1,800 comments shows a slim majority of respondents support the proposed standards. The survey results, collected over a 30-day period, are on deck to be shared at Tuesday’s board meeting.

Some comments in support of the standards say teaching these skills will give students the foundation to grow into healthy, well-rounded adults. Another theme says the standards prepare students to navigate social interactions and relationships effectively, fostering empathy, communication skills, teamwork, and conflict resolution abilities.

Not everyone is on board with the standards. Some say teaching this type of learning is a way to justify diversity, equity, and inclusion education. Another opposing theme says the standards would encourage teachers to act as psychologists, but without a license. A third theme said social-emotional education is the role of the parent, not the school.

During the August Board of Education meeting, President Charlie Shields, of St. Joseph, said he expected the debate about social-emotional learning to create controversy.

“I can see people are going to say (we’re) telling our students how they should think about things, and this is not what this is at all,” said Shields. “It’s creating a set of norms of what civility looks like. “Given all the challenges we face, if we can’t (have the standards), how do you expect learning to happen?”

State Rep. Brad Pollitt, R-Sedalia, a former superintendent, pointed to an increase in single parent families.

“What is the responsibility of the local public school,” asked Pollitt. “Is it only to teach reading and writing and math and science and history or is it to teach other skills? You know, there’s a lot of life skills, soft skills, that are taught through co-curricular and extracurricular activities.”

He told Missourinet throughout the years, schools were given the responsibility to not only to educate students, but also to deal with any issues that the young people might have.

“The public schools accepted that challenge – not that they wanted to, but it was out of necessity. And throughout a number of years, the public schools have gotten into the business of having to raise some young people,” according to Pollitt.

He also pointed to giving kids participation rewards.

“They didn’t have to win or be successful, but they got some type of material reward for showing up. I think it’s all went downhill since then that we have a lot of emotional issues with how to deal with failure,” said Pollitt.

If approved by the Missouri Board of Education, the standards are expected to roll out during the 2024-2025 school year.

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