In this article, Jonathan Cohen argues that the goals of education need to be reframed to prioritize not only academic learning, but also social, emotional, and ethical competencies. Surveying the current state of research in the fields of social-emotional education, character education, and school-based mental health in the United States, Cohen suggests that social-emotional skills, knowledge, and dispositions provide the foundation for participation in a democracy and improved quality of life. Cohen discusses contemporary best practices and policy in relation to creating safe and caring school climates, home-school partnerships, and a pedagogy informed by social-emotional and ethical concerns. He also emphasizes the importance of scientifically sound measures of social-emotional and ethical learning, and advocates for action research partnerships between researchers and practioners to develop authentic methods of evaluation. Cohen notes the gulf that exists between the evidence-based guidelines for social-emotional learning, which are being increasingly adopted at the state level, and what is taught in schools of education and practiced in preK–12 schools. Finally, he asserts that social, emotional, ethical, and academic education is a human right that all students are entitled to, and argues that ignoring this amounts to a social injustice.
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