With a quasi-break in classes I’m exploring an area of education that more aligns with my personal interests: social emotional learning, especially for youths transitioning from elementary to middle school. I’ve recently read Transforming Education’s 2015 paper “Ready to Be Counted: The Research Case for Education Policy Action on Non-Cognitive Skills” and had a few concerns.
- There’s a difference between “self-control” and addiction. While poor self-control can lead to excessive drug or alcohol use, it is not the same as having a pre-existing mental illness that cannot be simply “controlled” by will or a good kindergarten program.
- While single-motherhood is an easy indicator of poor life outcomes, single mothers are not the sole participants in “low self-control.” Aside from the fact that it takes two to make a baby, we also need to take into account power dynamics, rape, and sexual education. These should be explicitly worked into the non-cognitive education platform.
- Antisocial, criminal, aggressive behavior, and other things that are predictors of poor outcomes may be a result of mental illness, not just development of non-cognitive skills. Improved instruction in these skills will be helpful, and obviously one paper can’t take care of all potential aspects of human beings in a classroom, but it’s irresponsible to not at least acknowledge this exceptionality.
- Don’t list marijuana as one of the vices that can be engaged in because of poor non-cognitive skills. Seriously.
Also want to say that college attendance and white collar work are not the only indicators of success. Can’t really blame the paper for this because it’s a wider, oppressive problem caused by our social-capitalist operation, but I want to mention it when it comes up. Not everyone is meant to go to college or sit at a desk. It is VITAL for our health as a society to respect the people who take a different path and provide important services that keep our lives rolling along.