Tuesday, August 23, 2022

Afterschool and the Education Culture Wars (Part 1)

Source: Unsplash.com

By Sam Piha

We live in a political climate where differences are not explored, they are weaponized. In recent months schools and educators have been attacked under the guise of critical race theory, parent rights and the call to ban certain books. The PBS News Hour offered a good segment on critical race theory and book bannings.

Are there many citizens who are leading this fight or is it a manufactured controversy, which is a product of the internet? Below is a quote from an article (NEA News) that attempts to explain this.1

“As the nation continues to reckon with the role racism plays in our society, a tiny but extremely vocal minority of voices is determined to turn our classrooms into battlegrounds for their vicious culture wars. These radical groups are using social media to spread disinformation and stoke fear about race in the classroom, pushing for laws to ban books about Ruby Bridges, Martin Luther King, Jr. and other civil rights figures, and seeking to censor teachers and deny students the right to a truthful and honest education.” – Edward Graham, NEA News

Source: PBS News Hour

While afterschool programs have not been attacked directly, there are certain core values and program initiatives that have come under scrutiny. They include equity, identity (LGBTQ+ and racial), mindfulness, growth mindsets, grit and social emotional learning (SEL).

Before we discuss how to not get entangled in the educational culture wars, it is important to note that the support for the afterschool movement over the last 30 years has largely been bipartisan. According to Dr. Terry Peterson (Afterschool Alliance), “The roots in California involved bipartisan support in some key cities in the late 1980’s, like Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego and Sacramento and then spread greatly with the strong leadership of a Republican Governor, Schwarzenegger, and then much later, now, a huge expansion by a democratic Governor Newsom. This type of local, state and national expansion of an initiative overtime is very unusual and very important. 

The roots of the 21st Century Community Learning Centers in the 1990’s clearly involved Republican and Democratic members of Congress and a Democratic Administration.”  The 21st CCLC quickly became one of the fastest growing social programs in the history of America. (We interviewed Dr. Peterson in a previous LIAS Blog).

Source: History of Afterschool in America

It is important to not take the support for afterschool for granted. There are things we can do to prevent that the afterschool movement is not damaged by the educational culture wars. 

Be aware of what’s happening in your area and in the larger field. 
“In this environment, anything can be politicized,” said John Bridgeland, the CEO of Civic Enterprises, a public policy firm, who has worked extensively on building bipartisan support for SEL programs in schools.

To get a better sense of what’s happening in the larger field, below we cite some titles from articles with endnote references that have been published recently:

  • Socio-Emotional Learning (SEL) Is Anti-White, Anti-Christian, and Anti-American Indoctrination 2
  • Social Emotional Programming: The SEL Agenda to Enforce Thought Reform, Conformity, and Control 3
  • Schools Face Fears of ‘Critical Race Theory’ as They Scale Up Social-Emotional Learning 4
  • Hijacking Their Minds: How ‘Safe Schools’ & Social Emotional Learning Indoctrinate Our Children 5
Below we cite quotes that illustrate the thinking behind the culture wars:
  • “This curriculum goes far beyond helping first-graders get along with their peers and delves into political manipulation. It’s never too early, apparently, to use SEL to create little community organizers.” 6
  • “Book-banning attempts have grown in the U.S. over the past few years from relatively isolated battles to a broader effort aimed at works about sexual and racial identity.” 7
  • “Minnesota’s Child Protection League, a group active on conservative issues, said social-emotional learning is a vehicle for critical race theory, an effort to divide students from their parents, emotional manipulation and “the latest child-indoctrination scheme.” 8
  • “Students in several #US states are forced to participate in #Buddhist-based meditation. If a child refuses, he or she is moved to the hall as if being punished. These schools are indoctrinating our children.” 9
  • (VIDEO) Stella Morabito Presentation on Social Emotional Programming from Child Protection League Action on YouTube. 10

We continue our look into the education culture wars and offer more tips on how to avoid entanglement in the misinformation in part 2.


  1.  Edward Graham, Who is Behind the Attacks on Educators and Public Schools?
  2.   Savanah Hulsey Pointer, Socio-Emotional Learning (SEL) Is Anti-White, Anti-Christian, and Anti-American Indoctrination
  3.   Stella Morabito, Social Emotional Programming: The SEL Agenda to Enforce Thought Reform, Conformity, and Control
  4.   Arianna Prothero and Evie Blad, Schools Face Fears of ‘Critical Race Theory’ as They Scale Up Social-Emotional Learning
  5.   Karen Effrem, Hijacking Their Minds: How Social Emotional Learning Indoctrinates Children
  6.   Karen Effrem, M.D. and Jane Robbins, J.D., Social-Emotional Learning: K–12 Education as New Age Nanny State 
  7.   Claire Moses, The Spread of Book Banning
  8.   Laura Meckler, In ‘social-emotional learning,’ right sees more critical race theory
  9.   Katherine Hignett, Conservative Christians Want to Stop Kids Meditating At School
  10.   Stella Morabito: Social Emotional Programming (Video)

To learn more about the education culture wars and afterschool and to register for this informative webinar, click here.

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