by John Klyczek, Activist Post:
As a result of federal initiatives to “get tough on crime,” such as the Reagan Administration’s War on Drugs and the Clinton Administration’s “Three Strikes” laws, the total number of incarcerated Americans more than quadrupled from roughly 500,000 inmates in 1980 to 2.2 million inmates in 2015. During these decades, black Americans were incarcerated at a rate five times higher than that of white Americans.
Despite a new 2019 US Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) report, which suggests that the racial disparity between white and black incarceration rates is “narrowing,” a Pew Research Center review of BJS stats reveals that this 2019 report “counts only inmates sentenced to more than a year.” Moreover, even with this limited sample of inmates, Pew Research still finds that, “[i]n 2017, blacks represented 12% of the U.S. adult population but 33% of the sentenced prison population. Whites accounted for 64% of adults but 30% of prisoners. . . . In 2017, there were 1,549 black prisoners for every 100,000 black adults—nearly six times the imprisonment rate for whites (272 per 100,000).”
This same lopsided representation of African Americans in the criminal justice system is paralleled in the US school system where black students are on average more likely than white students to be issued detentions, suspensions, expulsions, and other disciplinary actions or behavioral interventions that address student misconduct:
- A study from Columbia Law School’s Center for Intersectionality and Social Policy Studies reported that “Black males were suspended more than three times as often as their white counterparts, [and] Black girls were suspended six times as often [as white girls].” Overall, “Black boys are disciplined more than any other group.”
- The National Center for Learning Disabilities reports that “Black students with disabilities are almost three times more likely to experience out-of-school suspension or expulsion than white students with disabilities and twice as likely to experience in-school suspension or expulsion.”
- The academic journal Sociology of Education published a data set which finds that “schools and districts with relatively larger minority and poor populations are more likely to implement criminalized disciplinary policies, including suspensions and expulsion or police referrals or arrests, and less likely to medicalize students through behavioral plans put in place through laws such as Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.”
To rectify such systemic racism built into the American school system, there is a growing call to mandate that “socioemotional-learning (SEL)” methods be instituted “across the curriculum” from the administrative staff to the classroom faculty. By tracking SEL data regarding schools’ “social climates” and students’ “socioemotional competences” in relation to ethnographic statistics regarding the rates of disciplinary and behavioral interventions for different racial groups across the student body, SEL promoters believe that they can calculate the algorithms which can rectify systemic racism in schools by evening out the statistical spread of disciplinary and behavioral interventions across the various races of the American student body.
When pitched as a remedy to institutional racism in the US education system, these SEL reforms might sound like progressive ways that schools can shut down the cradle-to-jail prison pipelines in African American communities by setting up cradle-to-college or cradle-to-career pipelines for “lifelong learning.”
In the final equation, “anti-racist” SEL reforms will only exacerbate disciplinary and behavioral interventions for African Americans (and other people of color) by using precision algorithms to pathologize even more student behaviors as misconduct that must be investigated and reconditioned by the “Thought Police.”
Big Brother Cares How Students Feel:
According to the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL)—which is a nonprofit corporation that is funded by the Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, and the Institute for Education Sciences of the US federal government—SEL pedagogy targets five “socioemotional competences”: “self-awareness,” “self-management,” “social awareness,” “relationship skills,” and “responsible decision-making.” Guided by CASEL’s “competency-based education” (CBE) methodology, America’s hi-tech SEL lobby is aiming to socially engineer student learning outcomes by implementing educational technologies that scan students’ neurobehavioral algorithms in order to administer digital therapies which enhance the students’ socioemotional competences.
Corporations such as Microsoft, Neurocore, BrainCo, Affectiva, and Akili have all been developing wearable ed-tech devices, such as bracelets and headbands, that biometrically data-mine students’ SEL algorithms through the students’ EEG brainwaves, “galvanic skin responses” (GSR), and other forms of neuro-electrical “biofeedback.” By incorporating these SEL technologies across the curriculum and throughout the school administration, SEL advocates purport to eliminate systemic racism in US schools by quantitatively identifying when a student of color is inappropriately disciplined with respect to his or her neurobehavioral algorithms.
A whitepaper titled “Pursuing Social and Emotional Development Through a Racial Equity Lens,” which was published by the Aspen Institute, recommends that schools audit their “social, emotional, and academic development (SEAD)” outcomes by “[p]roduc[ing] data analysis to . . . include student and teacher responses to school climate surveys, as well as discipline, attendance, and grades cross-tabulated by race of student and race of teachers to understand patterns at baseline.” Stated differently, this Aspen Institute report is advocating for socioemotional data-mining reforms that measure systemic racism in “school climates” by tracking racial-bias algorithms embedded in statistical patterns of unequal grade/discipline distribution across the different races of students with respect to the different races of teachers. In turn, it is believed that calculating such racial-bias algorithms will enable schools to “redistribute” grades and disciplinary interventions so that there is an “equal distribution” of grades/discipline across the various races of the student body.