Sunday, September 15, 2013

Is Emotional Intelligence critical for academic success as well as success in life?

NY Times [...] Wade’s approach — used schoolwide at Garfield Elementary, in Oakland, Calif. — is part of a strategy known as social-emotional learning, which is based on the idea that emotional skills are crucial to academic performance. 

“Something we now know, from doing dozens of studies, is that emotions can either enhance or hinder your ability to learn,” Marc Brackett, a senior research scientist in psychology at Yale University, told a crowd of educators at a conference last June. “They affect our attention and our memory. If you’re very anxious about something, or agitated, how well can you focus on what’s being taught?” 

Once a small corner of education theory, S.E.L. has gained traction in recent years, driven in part by concerns over school violence, bullying and teen suicide. But while prevention programs tend to focus on a single problem, the goal of social-emotional learning is grander: to instill a deep psychological intelligence that will help children regulate their emotions. 

For children, Brackett notes, school is an emotional caldron: a constant stream of academic and social challenges that can generate feelings ranging from loneliness to euphoria. Educators and parents have long assumed that a child’s ability to cope with such stresses is either innate — a matter of temperament — or else acquired “along the way,” in the rough and tumble of ordinary interaction. But in practice, Brackett says, many children never develop those crucial skills. “It’s like saying that a child doesn’t need to study English because she talks with her parents at home,” Brackett told me last spring. “Emotional skills are the same. A teacher might say, ‘Calm down!’ — but how exactly do you calm down when you’re feeling anxious? Where do you learn the skills to manage those feelings?” 

A growing number of educators and psychologists now believe that the answer to that question is in school. George Lucas’s Edutopia foundation has lobbied for the teaching of social and emotional skills for the past decade; the State of Illinois passed a bill in 2003 making “social and emotional learning” a part of school curriculums. Thousands of schools now use one of the several dozen programs, including Brackett’s own, that have been approved as “evidence-based” by the Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning, a Chicago-based nonprofit. All told, there are now tens of thousands of emotional-literacy programs running in cities nationwide. 

The theory that kids need to learn to manage their emotions in order to reach their potential grew out of the research of a pair of psychology professors — John Mayer, at the University of New Hampshire, and Peter Salovey, at Yale. In the 1980s, Mayer and Salovey became curious about the ways in which emotions communicate information, and why some people seem more able to take advantage of those messages than others. While outlining the set of skills that defined this “emotional intelligence,” Salovey realized that it might be even more influential than he had originally suspected, affecting everything from problem solving to job satisfaction: “It was like, this is predictive!” 

In the years since, a number of studies have supported this view. So-called noncognitive skills — attributes like self-restraint, persistence and self-awareness — might actually be better predictors of a person’s life trajectory than standard academic measures. A 2011 study using data collected on 17,000 British infants followed over 50 years found that a child’s level of mental well-being correlated strongly with future success. Similar studies have found that kids who develop these skills are not only more likely to do well at work but also to have longer marriages and to suffer less from depression and anxiety. Some evidence even shows that they will be physically healthier.


  1. Rav Daniel, you might want to look over this article. I find the topic a bit disturbing.

  2. Sorry, I forgot to provide the link to the article. Here it is;,7340,L-4429764,00.html

  3. Part 1:

    Like bartlykulp, I too find this topic disturbing. I couldn’t find his link, so I’ll try to articulate some of my concerns.

    For starters – this subject is not new. Teaching “emotional intelligence” in schools, (which is closely related to what experts call “affective learning”) has been a hotly debated subject for over 30 years.

    In theory, it should be a great thing to do. As the Chovos Halvovos constantly reminds us, our actions flow from our beliefs, thoughts and emotions. “Good” actions require “good” beliefs, thoughts and emotions. One would be tempted to ask: “What could be wrong with that”?

    The devil is ALWAYS in the details. The crucial question is: What exactly are the specific emotional skills and competencies that are being taught?

    Looking at the details, it turns out that A LOT could be wrong.

    When we dig a bit deeper we find that THE VALUES TAUGHT ARE OFTEN AT ODDS WITH RELIGIOUS VALUES. I’ll mention only one example here.

    Here’s what Nelson and Lew write about the specific emotional skills and competencies that are to be taught:

    “We define emotional intelligence as a confluence of developed abilities to: (1) know and value self; (2) build and maintain a variety of strong, productive, and healthy relationships; (3) get along and work well with others in achieving positive results; and (4) effectively deal with the pressures and demands of daily life and work. The development of emotional intelligence is an intentional, active, and engaging process”.

    Let’s talk about item #2 and #3: Healthy relationships & work well with others.

    These items are very similar to some of those included in the PA Educational Quality Assessment (EQA) test, which generated considerable opposition from conservatives.


  4. Part 2:

    Here’s an excerpt from a speech given by Peg Luksik, founder of PA Parents Commission on Aug. 3, 1992 at Town Meeting, concerning reservations about the PA Educational Quality Assessment (EQA) test:
    “The EQA was the bases for curriculum planning for all the districts in the state. It was a mandatory test, the state districts had to take it because they have to base their long range plan on it in order to get their state money.

    What did the EQA test? The EQA tested first the 10, then the 12 quality goals of education. When we looked at the EQA the parents thought it tested reading, writing, self esteem, citizenship. It tested LOCUST of control, whether you’re an internally motivated person or an externally motivated person, whether you stand up against the crowd or you go with the flow, and they scored it. There was a right answer to the attitude questions. The right answer was go with the flow.

    In citizenship the EQA said, it did not test anything in the factual domain. It didn’t matter if you knew what the United Nations was, it didn’t matter if you knew who the president was. Citizenship tested thresholds of behavior. How do I vary reward and punishment to make you do what I want you to do?
    Sample question:
    There was an organization called the Midnight Marauders they went out and spray painted all over everyone’s wall.
    I would join the group if:

    A) My best friend asked me to join - a child could say yes no or maybe, the correct answer was Yes.
    B) Most of the popular students were in the club - Yes, no, or maybe. The correct answer was Yes.
    C) MY parents would ground me if they found out if I joined - The correct answer was No.
    You are supposed to avoid punishment but you are supposed to honor commitments and friends and go as a group. The Goal was Collectivism.

    The EQA tested for adaptability of change. What the parents were told is that our world is constantly changing, and we need people who are going to be able to go with that and survive that and not people who can’t adapt. The EQA tested and scored for RAPID, EMOTIONAL adjustment to change without protest. That was the state desired response.
    The EQA just didn’t test the attitude of children it scored the attitudes of children, it was a criterion reference test. That means there is a right answer and a wrong answer and said what it is.

    So the question is – whose values do we want to inoculate in our children?

  5. All good ideas can sell in the free open market. All bad ideas have to be legislated and incorporated in to public school systems.

    Let them prove they have a product, then sell it to the consumer-the parents.

    Every normal parent wants their child to be the best they can. Not all will hear about right away, but you can be sure if it has success they will all come running.

    Where to do it? Either in a totally private non school setting, or if parents ask for it in a private school!!!

    One more thing. Even if the concept is proven beyond the shadow of a doubt, the implementation of a program definitely isn't. Let parents privately experiment and tweak it before you try to implement it for everyone.

  6. One more thing, as the previous guy pointed out, you have a problem with dictating values. Once again, if parents are running such a program you avoid such conflict.

  7. One more thing, as the previous guy pointed out, you have a problem with dictating values. Once again, if parents are running such a program you avoid such conflict.

  8. This might sound surprising, but if the school was receiving federal funding for this emotional intelligence stuff, I think a strong argument can be made that what the teacher did in the beginning of the article COULD VERY WELL BE ILLEGAL.

    Here's why:

    The Protection of Pupil Rights Amendment (PPRA)prohibits schools from discussing many things without parental consent.

    Among the prohibitions:

    No discussions of "Critical appraisals of other individuals with whom respondents have close family relationships;"

    Well, reading the nyt article, it seems that's what the teacher did - did he have written consent?

    Here's what the NYT article says:

    Wade asked the 5-year-olds to think about “anything happening at home, or at school, that’s a problem, that you want to share.” He repeated his invitation twice, in a lulling voice, until a small, round-faced boy in a white shirt and blue cardigan raised his hand. Blinking back tears, he whispered, “My mom does not like me.” The problem, he said, was that he played too much on his mother’s iPhone. “She screams me out every day,” he added, sounding wretched.

    Wade let that sink in, then turned to the class and asked, “Have any of your mommies or daddies ever yelled at you?” When half the children raised their hands, Wade nodded encouragingly. “Then maybe we can help.” Turning to a tiny girl in a pink T-shirt, he asked what she felt like when she was yelled at. “Sad,” the girl said, looking down. “And what did you do? What words did you use?” “I said, ‘Mommy, I don’t like to hear you scream at me.’ ”Wade nodded slowly, then looked around the room. “What do you think? Does that sound like a good thing to say?” When the kids nodded vigorously"

    1. yes I totally agree with you. The description of the teacher is like that of a pedophile groom his victim in which he isolates him from others and makes him totally dependent on his judgment.

      He is providing therapy without permission and obviously without proper training - but he is also destroying the child's relationship with his parents.


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