A Biblical Response to Social and Emotional Learning

After His Own Heart

by Laura Elizabeth Fabrizio on February 12, 2024
See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ. (Colossians 2:8)

One of the roles of Christian educators, including homeschool parents and caregivers, is to wisely discern the philosophical and theoretical approaches to education which become integrated in curricula and methods. These philosophies and theories will affect how a student does or does not develop a biblical worldview.

SEL directly contradicts God’s Word and undermines a biblical worldview.

One such approach that has crept into education is Social and Emotional Learning (SEL). A report by the U.S. Department of Education (DOE) defines SEL as “the process through which individuals learn and apply a set of social, emotional, and related skills, attitudes, behaviors, and values that help direct their thoughts, feelings, and actions in ways that enable them to succeed in school, work, and life.”1 Under this approach, success is defined in terms of social acceptability. The result is that students are trained to define right and wrong as whatever is collectively determined as appropriate. In other words, morality is defined by cultural majority view. In this way and others, SEL directly contradicts God’s Word and undermines a biblical worldview.

  1. SEL emphasizes emotions as the primary gauge for acceptable behavior. In this respect, SEL promotes the self as the supreme being, and it holds conforming to the morality of the collective group as the standard. SEL redefines “wrong” as anything that offends the feelings and standards of the collective group and “right” as affirmation of the feelings of the group.
  2. SEL demands empathy over compassion. While compassion focuses on the sufferer’s good, empathy focuses on affirming a person’s feelings. Pointing out a person’s error, or labeling a person’s actions as sin, is not socially acceptable in SEL.
  3. SEL elevates man-made identities and trains students to affirm them. In elevating man’s choices over biblical truth, SEL requires students to adhere to secular ideology in the name of creating “healthy” attitudes.

The above-mentioned study funded by the U.S. Department of Education reports that more than 90 percent of schools and districts in the U.S. focus on developing students’ SEL skills. Beyond public school, SEL is affecting educational design and has infiltrated both Christian school and homeschool curricula. Many of these materials claim to be Bible-based and God-centered, but if we understand the philosophical intent behind SEL, we should reject SEL materials as anything but biblical.

  1. It is God’s Word which sets the standard for morality. A Christian curriculum should affirm the sinful nature of man, born from the fall of Adam, and each student’s need to repent and receive the forgiveness of God through Christ’s redemptive work on the cross.
  2. God’s Word teaches us to show compassion to the lost by leading them to the only One who can heal their brokenness. Rather than teaching students to attune themselves to the emotions of those around them, a Christian curriculum should teach students to attune their hearts to God, placing him above all else.
  3. God’s Word affirms only two identities: lost and redeemed. Any other identity than one found in Christ is empty and destructive. A Christian curriculum should emphasize each student’s need for the gospel to change his identity from lost to redeemed.
Only God can provide the solution to matters of the heart.

One of the most important advantages of homeschooling is that we can select God-honoring materials that help students develop a biblical worldview. Only God can provide the solution to matters of the heart, giving a new heart through the rebirth of the Holy Spirit. We should choose curricula that draw our students’ hearts to the Lord, encouraging them to walk with him and bear the fruit of the Spirit in increasing measure.

To help students develop a biblical worldview, consider attending one of the many educational programs at the Creation Museum and Ark Encounter.


  1. Gagnier, K. M., Okawa, A., and Jones-Manson, S. (2022). Designing and Implementing Social Emotional Learning Programs to Promote Equity. White paper produced by AnLar and the Office of Elementary and Secondary Education; Education, Innovation, and Research Program (EIR).


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