August 8, 2021

Shane Phipps: A Message from the Front Lines of the Indoctrination Wars

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Shane Phipps is a teacher and writer in Indianapolis whose blunt takes on education issues can be read at Inside Education. In this recent post, he looks at the fights over critical race theory and social and emotional learning.

Let’s start with SEL, shall we? Recently, an e-mail was shared with me by a family member. This e-mail attacked the teaching of Social and Emotional Learning and Critical Race Theory, using well-worn, bigoted dog whistle language such as “Marxist/Communist agenda,” “reprogramming,” and “sexually grooming.” The person who sent this out was a member of a radical, right-wing organization, Purple for Parents, which has been attacking public schools for some time now. I first learned of them when I published an article before the big Red for Ed Rally in Indianapolis back in November of 2019. Boy oh boy, did I ever find out that they didn’t like me very much! When I investigated their platform and the awful things their membership support and promote, I was more than glad that they don’t like me. I will reprint the entire email, sent from a member of the Purple for Parents chapter in Warsaw, Indiana, below so you will have a point of reference, since they address both SEL and CRT.

“…I wanted to let every Mama in my contact list know about Critical Race Theory and Emotional Social Learning in our schools. Attended the meet [sic] last night about WCS [Warsaw Community Schools] but it’s EVERYWHERE and is totally and completely focused on the Marxist/Communist agenda and both ‘reprogramming’ and ‘sexually grooming’ our young people. It sounds crazy but I can share all the data presented at the meeting. One CRUCIAL item we were provided as an opt out form to deny the schools from polling our children (secretly without our knowledge) on all types of social and sexual topics to identify ‘mental health issues.’ If you want a copy let me know. And if you want to know more start at”

This is fear-based gaslighting in its purest form. I said I was going to shout the truth, so here it goes. My school teaches a program called Second Steps which uses the foundation of SEL as its platform. We teach these lessons as a portion of our course called STAR (Students, Teachers, and Relationships) during a half hour period linked with the students’ lunch break. The program is designed around five pillars, none of which are “Marxist” or “Communist,” nor do they “reprogram” or “sexually groom” anyone—not even remotely so. Here are the five pillar skills which SEL helps students work through….

  • Developing your interests and passions
  • Setting and achieving your goals
  • Handling changing relationships
  • Managing your thoughts and emotions
  • Dealing with social conflicts

Real sinister stuff, huh?

Talk to anyone who’s ever spent time in a public school, particularly one that has a high population of kids living in poverty and/or crime-ridden areas, and they will tell you what trauma-affected students are like. Our schools are full of students who don’t have the skills needed to cope with the trauma scars they carry. SEL helps students understand and navigate the idea that they are not the only ones who are going through tough and confusing things. Everyone is fighting battles that we can’t see. SEL helps build empathy for others by examining how to deal with our own inner-most fears and anxieties. This is what makes organizations like Purple for Parents so fearful of SEL. They want their children to be raised to fear “the others.” They want them to ignore the trauma that causes so many young people to deal with anxieties and depression. They don’t want their children to learn to coexist with other children who have very different world views and orientations. I want my students to learn to be able to accept that they live in a world that is populated by people of all stripes. Here’s the thing, members of Purple for Parents: You claim you don’t want your children “indoctrinated.” That’s a lie. You do want them indoctrinated…to your narrow world view.

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