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Common Core 2.0—‘In Loco Parentis’ Gone Loco

It looks like the Tennessee Department of Education did not learn its lesson with Common Core. Through a new educational initiative, the Department is going down a similar path with something that is even worse. It is taking the Latin phrase in loco parentis and putting the emphasis on loco, as in this is just crazy.

The phrase in loco parentis means “in the place of a parent.” It is most often used in connection with organized education where schools, private and public, are often seen as acting in loco parentis in regard to the education of a child; they are helping parents educate their child. But what the Tennessee Department of Education now appears to want is to replace parents.

The Common Core-Like Process

Like Common Core, this new initiative begins with money that, so far, the handful of legislators to whom we’ve spoken knew nothing about. And like Common Core at the outset, this, too, involves Tennessee joining a select group of states to pioneer something.

In this case, it’s not the Gates Foundation, but the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, not known for its conservative values. It has dangled private money in front of interested states. California, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, Pennsylvania, and Washington are six of the seven states (Georgia being the other) that got the money. To me, if California thinks this is a good idea, then it’s probably not.

What Is Social and Emotional Learning?

That’s particularly true when you find out that the initiative is “for all students in preschool through high school to receive high-quality social and emotional learning.” Two of the recommended competencies are fraught with peril.

One of the competencies is “prosocial” behavior. What does that mean? In a culture increasingly embracing unnatural sexual acts as natural and gender confusion will a child be “prosocial” if he or she does not embrace those cultural values?

Another competency “refers to the capacity to make ethical decisions and develop appropriate solutions to identified problems.” That, of course, is good, but it’s not good in the hands of those who deny any absolutes, believe in moral relativism, or believe truth is what you personally feel good about.

Will Your Child ‘Pass’ the Test?

In addition, the “goal” is to set “grade-appropriate standards for social and emotional learning.” That’s a scary thought.

What kind of test is a child going to be subjected to in order to determine if he or she is socially and emotionally well according to the state’s definition of those terms? If your child doesn’t think having two dads is as good as having a mother and a father, will that child meet the “standard” for social and emotional health? Will a child be considered “prosocial” and emotionally healthy if he or she believes that bathroom usage should be based on biology or that one’s gender is determined by God and not the child’s feelings? Such thoughts might not demonstrate the requisite “capacity to make ethical decisions.”

No Parental Exemption

The insidious part about this initiative is that the goal is to make the instruction so pervasive that no parent can exempt his or her child from it, like one can with specific aspects of the sex education curriculum. According to the organization shepherding this effort, “integration of SEL [social and emotional learning] standards with standards in other subject areas promotes social and emotional development across all areas of instruction.” Maybe the state is going to help a child feel good about getting the wrong answer to a math question and learn that a correct answer is no better than a wrong answer?

But the really troubling thing is that Tennessee is already pretty far down the road on this. Already on the state’s website is a Toolkit for Tennessee Teachers and Administrators entitled “Incorporating Social and Emotional Learning Into Classroom Instruction and Educator Effectiveness.” In fact, we’re one of only five or six states that is that far along. Most states have done nothing in regard to social and emotional learning.

I have no doubt that the intentions of many involved are good. And certainly too many parents do not do a good job training up their children emotionally, psychologically, spiritually, and relationally. But this kind of thing comes from those who do not respect and honor the God-given jurisdictional responsibility of parents, and this kind of power in the hands of those kind of people is dangerous.

Will Parents and Grandparents Rise Up?

We are going to start asking a whole lot more questions, but those of you with children in public schools better rise up. You better watch what’s going on before the values you are trying to teach your children are undermined by those who think your values are not socially acceptable or emotionally healthy. You better contact your state legislator. And if you don’t, then maybe you better get a second job to help pay for the private education of your child or grandchild.

This unsettling initiative has the potential for parents and legislators to provide a real social and emotional education to the liberals in our Department of Education.


David Fowler served in the Tennessee state Senate for 12 years before joining FACT as President in 2006. Read David’s complete bio.

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