Education Next

Does the current drive to incorporate social and emotional learning, or SEL, into the K–12 curriculum represent a positive reform that will lead schools to educate the “whole student” and ultimately boost young people’s academic success? Or is it a distracting fad that comes with high opportunity costs?

Common sense and considerable evidence tell us that many of the abilities that fall under the rubric of social and emotional learning—including individual effort, task-related social skills that enhance group productivity, and self-management abilities such as anger control—contribute to personal effectiveness, whether in school or elsewhere. But should schools try to teach this kind of competency, or stick to the academic domain? Can they even succeed at teaching social and emotional skills?