An activity at Apex Middle School which is tied to the controversial concept adopted by Wake County Schools called “social-emotional learning” or “SEL” has students and their parents upset.
The activity that apparently all students at this middle school are being subjected to is called “Circle Time,” and it is slated to happen every single Monday for 30 minutes with everyone literally sitting in a circle. The students are then ‘welcomed’ to the space of the Circle then they are told to “pause, breathe and listen to the sound.”
According to the ‘rules’ for Circle Time, students are given a topic to discuss and only the person holding the “talking piece” is allowed to speak.
In addition, much like the movie Fight Club, the rules for Circle Time say that information shared within the circle is supposed “stay in the circle.” Good luck with that.
Parents of students at Apex Middle report to me that they were not informed of or asked for permission for this activity and that they only found out after their children spoke up about it.
Apparently, even just the initial session made students at the school uncomfortable. One individual who contacted this website called it “emo-creepy” and is an “invasive social experiment using minor children as guinea pigs.”
A copy of the Circle Time session topics and the questions called “Cougar Connect” was not initially given to parents or students at Apex Middle. Upon learning about “Circle Time,” parents requested information on the activity from Apex Middle’s Principal.
According to parents I spoke with, Principal Monica Yllanes was hesitant to turn over the presentation associated with the activity and the first copy sent to the parents was missing a slide which had a hyperlink to the Cougar Connect document.
According to the documentation, students are not required to participate and can “pass” on sharing personal information or emotional stories but according to a conversation parents shared with me, there is no actual ‘opt-out’.
When directly asked if students could opt out of “Circle Time,” Principal Yllanes said, “That has not something that we have developed.”
“Students never have to say anything in the Circle if that is something they choose not to do, but they can be participants but they don’t have to actively participate or say something if they choose not to,” Yllanes said.
The upcoming topics and questions to be asked in “Circle Time” include several months of just talking about what the “circle” is before moving into topics like “creating a safe happy circle” followed by “exploring our values,” “Bullying,” “Understanding School Rules” and several sessions where nothing but feelings are discussed.
One session topic is called “Listening to the silence” and the purpose is to “increase emotional literacy by increasing the ability to be still and become aware of the inner state of self.” The next session goes into “inside hurts” and the final sessions are on the “impact of gossip.”
Where did “Circle Time” come from?
When asked where the materials came from, Yllanes said the materials had been developed by Apex Middle School’s Student Services Department.
The inspiration for this activity is found a very small notation at the top of the questions and topics ‘Cougar Connect’ document which reads, “All information and activities in this document are from Circle Forward by Carolyn Boyes-Watson & Kay Pranis.”
A description of Circle Forward says that it is “a resource guide designed to help teachers, administrators, students and parents incorporate the practice of Circles into the everyday life of the school community” that “offers comprehensive step-by-step instructions for how to plan, facilitate and implement the Circle for a variety of purposes within the school environment.” C
Circle Forward boasts over a hundred “specific lesson plans and ideas for the application of Circles” in schools such as:
• Learning and establishing a Circle practice
• Establishing and affirming community norms
• Teaching and learning in Circle
• Building connection and community
• Promoting social-emotional skills
• Facilitating important but difficult conversations
• Working together as adults
• Engaging parents and the wider community
• Developing students as leaders in peer Circles
• Using Circles for restorative discipline
Principal Yllanes stated to the parents that this was an activity to build “social-emotional learning.” She also said this was “district-wide” and were part of the Wake County Public Schools Strategic Plan.
Yllanes said the materials created at her school were not from the Office of Equity Affairs, however, that office has been instrumental in pushing social justice standards, and SEL activities across the district.
Just prior to school starting, the Office of Equity Affairs openly encouraged teachers to use controversial resources from socialist, anarchist and history revisionist Howard Zinn.
As a point of fact, “Identity Anchor Standards” from the Office of Equity Affairs were emailed to all WCPSS teachers on Sept. 4th as part of a district-wide employee newsletter.
Social-Emotional Learning is commonly called SEL and increasingly has been found to be highly subjective and damaging to the well-being of students.
A white paper written by Jane Robbins, Dr. Kevin Ryan and Dr. Karen Effrem that was produced in March 2019 by the Pioneer Institute details the significant risks that SEL poses to student health and privacy.
The paper is titled, Social-Emotional Learning: K–12 Education as New Age Nanny State, and takes a close look at how school districts are prioritizing emotions over academic subjects.
The SEL white paper makes the link between Common Core and ‘Competency-Based’ education fads and the Executive Summary starts off with a quote from a parent:
“I feel like the school’s teaching what I should be teaching—values, attitudes, mindsets—and I’m teaching what the school should be teaching—math.”
– Connecticut mother of five public-school children
Effrem has characterized SEL as “amateur, unqualified psychoanalysis” and Robbins has said that “SEL curriculum based on coffee-table psychology.”
In short, SEL is about students being trained to focus less on academic subjects and more on the bones of what makes up identity politics – behavior, value systems, personal attributes, and feelings. By their very nature, SEL and related activities usurp the role of the parent
Given what parents are seeing with “diversity inventories” at Heritage High where SEL is already in full effect and now with “Circle Time” at Apex Middle School, these descriptions of SEL seem to ring true.
SEL activities in general and ones like Circle Time aim to promote and support the designation of which values, behaviors and attitudes should be promoted and which ones should be shunned.