Essay on SEL Standards: Turning Teachers Into Therapists and Students Into Patients?

Paper Type:  Essay
Pages:  6
Wordcount:  1391 Words
Date:  2023-04-09


In 2016, the collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning (CASEL) developed K-12 social learning emotional standards (SEL), which seeks to measures students' self-management, self-awareness, relationship skills, responsible decision making, and social awareness from kindergarten through to high school seniors. Robbins and Effrem posit that such a system turns teachers into therapists and students into patients (para, 3). Allegedly, this is supposed to clear the psychological problems that limit the student's ability to achieve academic success. However, the author disagrees with this notion and posits that the government has no moral or legal mandate to set normalized standards about beliefs, attitudes, emotions, and thoughts of the students. Rather, it is the parent's power and right to deliberate these problems with their children. There are many dangers when the state starts to manipulate the mind-sets of still growing and sensitive children. The paper aims to rhetorically analyze the article Schools Ditch Academics for Emotional Manipulation, exploring how the authors appeal to the reader through the use of ethos, logos, and pathos.

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Ethos is an ethical appeal that is used to persuade the reader about the author's credibility and reliability (Stucki et al., 374). Throughout the text, the authors have quoted many credible and strong references that strengthen its credibility and appeal to ethos, which helps in developing the text's argument. On one hand, the authors use sources that support the SEL standards to base their argument such as "the U.S. Department of Education (USED) push to transform education from academic content instructions to molding and assessing children's attitudes, mindsets, and behaviors" (Robbins and Effrem, para 4). Further, the new federal Every Student Succeed Act (ESSA) requires schools to be rated partly based on non-academic factors, which includes SEL measures (Robbins and Effrem, para 5). Likewise, the authors point out at least other three initiatives by the federal government that targets to monitor the beliefs and attitudes of the students instead of education achievement, which include the planned revision of Education Progress (NAEP), strengthening Education Through Research Act (SETRA), and the Early Learning Grants.

On the other hand, the authors use credible sources such as the world health organizations (WHO) to prove why the government should not track students' feelings and thoughts at the development period. For instance, WHO warns that "Childhood and adolescence being developmental phases, it is difficult to draw clear boundaries between phenomena that are part of normal development and others that are abnormal (Robbins and Effrem, para 12)." Moreover, the state wants teachers to make students SEL evaluations. However, Dr. Gary Thompson argues that placing such evaluation on teachers can be dangerous for the children who are labeled improperly (Robbins and Effrem, para 15). Other credible sources cited include Dr. Angela Duckworth and David Yeager who posits that students tend to interpret survey questions differently from what the researcher intended (Robbins and Effrem, para 14). Citing these sources improves the text's credibility by showing that they had researched well and presents facts, as well as expert opinions to support their argument. As such, the article appeals to the ethos of the leader as it is based on credible and reliable sources of information.


Adding to the author's appeals to ethos, they use strong appeal to logos with the logical progression of ideas and facts about SEL. For instance, the article informs us about the SEL standards, its proponents, and opponents, which the authors use to base their claims. The article employs logos in the way the content is presented, the layout of basic information, and how these combinations influence the readers' perception and reasoning. Logos is the use of logic to argue a claim (Stucki et al, 378). Therefore, logos in the article are the words used by the authors to convey their message to the reader. The article uses clear and concise, easily understood, and well-organized information that builds from one subtopic to the other. For instance, the article is broken into various subtitles from Federal Government Probes Students' Psyches through to Opening Doors for Indoctrination. Therefore, it is simple to navigate the website, in a logical manner starting from the topic introduction to the author's conclusion. The authors focus on how the CASEL introduced SEL to U.S. public schools and points out other initiatives by the government to support it (Robbins and Effrem, para 9). They proceed to indicate the weaknesses and disadvantages of SEL being pushed through public schools by the USED. For example, unreliable data made from the guesses about the student's emotional data will be entered into the permanent education database (Robbins and Effrem, para 15). The data might be accessed by any entity that the government wants such as employers, colleges, or prosecutors (Robbins and Effrem, para 19). Thus, this appeals to the logos of the audience that the students' psychological data is unprotected influence their reasoning. Further, the authors evaluate the connection CASEL has with other proponents of SEL and concludes that it is a scheme to change the world in areas such as sexual politics and climate regulation.

The authors have provided resources and links to the information that has been used as references throughout the text. Most of the resources used are from credible sources. Evidence for sources used improves the trustworthiness of the article's argument. Hence, to persuade the audience the authors have ensured that the article's social responsibility and sustainability are reasonable and appear trustworthy. Thus, these expert opinions create an appeal to logos and impress upon the audience that this issue is significant to discuss.


The appeal for pathos is a method of influencing the emotions of the audience (Demirdogen, 190). Throughout the article, the authors have successfully made appeals to pathos. They have used words and phrases that create a sympathetic image of the situation. They note that SEL can have adverse effects on students who are labeled inappropriately (Robbins and Effrem, para 14). Furthermore, many entities such as employers, prosecutors, and colleges can access this psychological history of the students (Robbins and Effrem, para 19). As such, the writers create images in the mind of the audience that evokes the challenges and vulnerabilities of the SEL as well as its dangerous effects on those students improperly labeled. In essence, this creates a negative perception of the SEL. Besides, the probability of negative outcomes based on students self-reporting surveys that are usually unreliable evokes sympathy for the unsuspecting students.

The use of language and reference links by the authors for the parents of the children in the K-12 signifies the presence of empathy, which directly relates to the emotional comprehension and connection. For example, "as parents of teenaged boys can attest, many children will treat such surveys as a joke and gladly take the opportunity to respond in the most outrageous manner possible (Robbins and Effrem, para 14)." The statement successfully appeals to the emotions of the audience as all parents can confirm it. As such, the article emotionally influences the audience as the authors seem concerned by the SEL outcomes for the unsuspecting children and parents. Similarly, the website in its explanation shows sensitivity for the audience by citing WHO that there are no clear demarcations between normal and abnormal development in childhood and adolescence developmental phases. Besides, even professional psychologists, psychiatrists, and counselors admit that there are no firm criteria for mental health diagnoses particularly in children (Robbins and Effrem, para 12). Thus, the articles have successfully used language and tone that indicate a personal perspective to appeal to the reader pathos.


In conclusion, the article is convincing, and truthful based on its appeal to the authority, logic, and emotion of the target audience. The article's layout is simple, its language is easy and understandable, and influences the leader emotionally. Therefore, the articles have accomplished its main aim of informing and persuading the general public on the SEL scheme to ditch academics for emotional manipulation. As such, the articles give critical insights on the nature and purpose of the SEL being pushed through by the USED.

Works cited

Demirdogen, Ulku D. "The roots of research in (political) persuasion: Ethos, pathos, logos and the Yale studies of persuasive communications." International Journal of Social Inquiry 3, no. 1 (2010): 189-201.

Robbins, Jane, and Karen Effrem. "Schools Ditch Academics For Emotional Manipulation." The Federalist, 19 Oct. 2016,

Stucki, Iris, and Fritz Sager. "Aristotelian framing: logos, ethos, pathos and the use of evidence in policy frames." Policy Sciences 51, no. 3 (2018): 373-385.

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Essay on SEL Standards: Turning Teachers Into Therapists and Students Into Patients?. (2023, Apr 09). Retrieved from

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