In an effort to promote “social and emotional learning,” in K-12 schools, the Tennessee Department of Education is rolling out a number of new educational reforms including, “safe spaces where students can go to calm down without feeling like they’re being punished.” These new reforms will also include the addition of class meetings and “breathing exercises” to help monitor students’ feelings.

You know what they say about good intentions? See exhibit A. Protecting students “feelings” sounds pretty dandy, but when you get down to it, these new “social-emotional” reforms will do more harm than good for Tennessee students. Discipline, and by extension, punishment, when properly utilized, is designed to instill positive behaviors in students. Yet, with all of this concern for “feelings,” there students are missing out on the opportunity to learn the lessons that come from failure, mistakes, and misdirection. These new reforms are crippling students’ problem solving abilities and hindering them in their future endeavors.

What do you think will happen when these students make a mistake on the job? I doubt employers are rushing to equip their businesses with “safe spaces” of their own. Instead of preparing students for productive futures, as schools are aught to do, Tennessee schools will soon be coddling their pupils into complacency, not productivity. This is the same principle behind “participation trophies,” which place a higher priority on student feelings as opposed to student achievement. What is a school if not a place where students are taught to achieve?

Coddling students’ feelings with concepts like “safe spaces,” earlier and earlier makes students less and less prepared for the real world. Hurt feelings, failure, and mistakes are a part of life. Without them, humans can’t learn to succeed. Tennessee is doing its students a disservice by putting a larger emphasis on feelings instead of learning.

Kids, you deserve better.


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