All Students Need Social-Emotional Skills Training

It’s been reported that the Sesame Workshop will provide a social-emotional skill development program to refugee children, to help them “navigate the complex social and emotional effects of trauma and displacement.”

That’s great news. But the truth is, all children need social-emotional skills training.

“Every student has experienced trauma,” says Jay Levin, president and executive director of the Big EQ Campaign, an effort to drive schools toward adopting SEL training for teachers and students of all ages.


Plays Well With Others


Remember when “plays well with others” was an item on your report card? Turns out that the fundamental skill of being able to get along with other people is highly valued in the workplace. Recent research from Harvard economist David Deming reveals that the proportion of jobs requiring social skill-related tasks has risen much faster than jobs requiring math and reading, the website Quartz reports.

Social skills have become more important to employability over the last 25 years, and as a result, the U.S. labor market increasingly rewards them, Quartz reports.

Yet, our schools largely neglect formal social-emotional training of teachers or students.


The Need for SEL


Levin told me in an e-mail that the U.S. is an outlier among other advanced, industrialized nations, noting that our country is marked by “lower school performance … higher violence, tremendous rates of depression and drug use … racism and hate groups … and other social ills,” which he attributes in part to low emotional intelligence.

“Properly applied in schools all the good markers climb: grades, IQ, behavior, student engagement and satisfaction, teacher happiness … and all the adverse markers decline: disruptive behavior, bullying, drug use, dropouts, suicide, and others.”

The work of economist James Heckman has shown repeatedly that non-cognitive or soft skills (social skills, leadership, perseverance, self-control, etc.) development leads to higher earnings, lower unemployment, and lower crime. To equip today’s learners takes more than mastering math and reading, as important as those subjects are.

“SEL is for everyone because everyone needs to be able to master the challenges of life and no one escapes them,” Levin says. “SEL allows students to operate from the most creative problem solving and wise parts of their brain rather than the most primitive and reactive.”

To learn more about the Big EQ Campaign, go here.