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Oklahoma Lawmaker Wants to Set Education Back 100 Years

State Senator Pushing for Ban on Healthy and Safe Learning Environment in Schools

By Jonathan George

Distressed student, Social Emotional Learning, Rock My Campus

Oklahoma Senate Bill #1442 is calling for the ban on Social Emotional Learning (SEL) at all schools in the State. Every parent, teacher, and student should be outraged over this bill. This proposal threatens the healthy mental, emotional, and academic development of students; weakens their ability to achieve success in life, and strips valuable tools away from teachers who are charged with helping students transition into responsible adults.

Our students are in the midst of a mental health crisis. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) website "ADHD, anxiety problems, behavior problems, and depression are the most commonly diagnosed mental disorders in children".

Teachers, counselors, and administrators struggle to keep up with the behavior issues that are caused by depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts They are overwhelmed and stressed to the point that employment dropped 7.1% in September 2020, compared to a year earlier – a loss of over 570,000 workers. This is by far the largest drop in public education jobs ever recorded in the federal data, which goes back to 1955. And these numbers have increased since the pandemic.

Republican State Senator, Shane Jett from Shawnee, OK is arguing that the Social Emotional Learning program is "sinister" and that there are ulterior motives to promote "anti-racist training" and the "sexualization of minors" under the guise of affirming feelings.

As a Social Emotional Learning expert, author, and speaker on the topic, I believe that Senator Jett's lack of knowledge or understanding of the topic is inexcusable and dangerous.

I am in agreement with the Oklahoma Department of Education's description of Social Emotional Learning as "the process through which children and adults understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions. SEL and Prevention are proactive approaches for ALL students that are designed to promote positive behavior and school climate."

This is exactly what SEL is and is exactly what is needed to fix the crisis the education system is facing.

I'm Jonathan George, and not only am I an expert in the field, but I've also experienced discrimination and emotional abuse as a student who had no support from the school system. Fortunately, my parents were aware of SEL and helped me overcome the self-doubt and even suicidal thoughts caused by the bullying I suffered in school. Now, the education system has the tools to help students just like me. It is needed more now than ever since the education system is in the midst of one of the worst mental health crises. Before Covid, statistics showed that anxiety, depression, and suicidal thoughts among our youth increased 58% with the release of social media and smartphones. We all know that Covid has put extra stress on students, parents, and educators exacerbating the problem.

When Facebook whistleblower, Frances Haugen spoke at the South by Southwest technology conference last Tuesday, she exposed how the social media giant shamelessly encourages negative content even at the cost of the mental health of young people. She explained that "Groups are the gasoline that is ignited by algorithm" and that these things are designed to be addictive and to "create a rabbit hole for you to fall down into". - SiliconHills Technology News

Our teenagers are completely helpless against the attacks on their self-worth, bullying, and the impossible to live up to fake standards while "Facebook continues to prioritize profits over safety" - Frances Haugen, Facebook Whistleblower

We also know that tremendous additional stress was inflicted on students as well as educators during the lockdowns. There is a real crisis in the school system that if not managed will seriously harm our future generations as well as the educators leading them. This is exactly why I created Rock My Campus, my proprietary R.O.C.K.S.T.A.R. Path to Social Emotional Learning. Rock My Campus emphasizes the qualities of:

  • RESPONSIBILITY in our actions and emotions

  • OWNERSHIP of who we are, our feelings, our emotions, and what we represent

  • CONNECTION to build relationships and communications skills

  • KINDNESS to understand and practice empathy

  • SELF-AWARENESS to be mindful of who we are and how to be the best version of ourselves

  • THANKFULNESS to appreciate what we have and to keep a proper perspective in life

  • AUTHENTICITY to be honest about who we are inside and out

  • RESILIENCE to bounce back from difficult situations

I would like to invite State Senator Jett to explain just which part of this is "sinister". Frankly, his efforts to gain support from those who oppose progress at the cost of the healthy development of our children are disgraceful and should be exposed and resisted. In addition, I urge every parent and educator to stand up and denounce this shameful effort to ban much-needed support for our educators and students.

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