The recent adoption of Social, Emotional and Character Development standards by the Kansas State Board of Education at first seems like a necessary corrective to test-driven academia. It is encouraging that the board is taking a vested interest in the emotional and social well-being of our students, rather than assuming and perpetuating a worst-case scenario.
A prolonged retirement age among teachers has made the act of keeping curriculum relevant and cutting edge while maintaining an aura of compassion and sympathy increasingly difficult. The refusal of teachers to retire leaves newly christened teachers stranded in a desolate market. Programs like SECD are essential in bridging the gap between teacher and student, a rift that has been widening with every passing year.
The rash of school shootings that has plagued the United States in the last 15 years also echoes the need for a student, rather than test, centered approach. Don’t be fooled, though. Test scores are still as valuable as ever. But with the added pressure of tests comes the need for flexibility in response. With SECD, students are guided in their development with an approach that adapts to them, not vice versa.
Recent “non-essential” program cuts, such as art and music, also necessitate a strategy to address the intangible desires of creative students. Children without artistic release, without means or instruction to do so, are left incapable of fully transposing their talents for abstract thinking into a static world.
Perhaps one day Kansans will see fit to reintegrate the arts into the classroom, but until that day, it is imperative that students manage their instincts rather than suffer because of them. SECD would not address those needs in the same way finger-painting did for us as children, but it eases the pressure enough for students to succeed.
This is where our school can really shine. Emporia State is in a unique position when programs like this come into being. We simply create the best teachers in the state, bar none. How our graduates approach a student’s emotional well-being is determined in part from their ability to integrate standards such as SECD.
And despite the bleak job market, The Bulletin hopes that our graduating teachers are as excited by programs like SECD as we are.