Will The Lack Of Social Education Create Shortened Life Spans?

The Research on Life Expectancy

In a Ted Talk given by Susan Pinker last year, she went through research done by Julianne Holt-Lunstand at Brigham Young University. The research looked at a population of diverse middle aged people. After recording their information, she waited seven years and then, in the words of Susan, “went to see who was left standing.”

This research had phenomenal insights. She found that the two greatest predictors of living longer were one, social integration, and two, your close relationships. Social integration was explained to mean how easily one can converse with those around them. Susan Pinker asks, “How many people do you talk to? And these mean both your weak and your strong bonds, so not just the people you are really close to, but, like, do you talk to the guy who makes you your coffee.” The second predictor, close relationships, mean people you can count on to help you in times of need. These predictors for life expectancy far outweighed diet, exercise, flu vaccines, and quitting drinking and smoking.

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Social Integration In Education

While the importance of social and emotional learning is not ground breaking news, this research shows a necessity for more social development in education. Most public schools do not require social or emotional education. In most traditional public schoos, social education is supposed to be learned in context as situations arise, or the administration is expected to create a school wide behavioral intervention. While teacher interventions and school wide programs are legitimate social teaching tools, do those types of social training increase student social integration? Do they teach students how to form close relationships? Those fundamental skills can easily get swept under the rug.

The Research On Social Integration In Schools

In a research study done by Ed Week Research Center (read the research HERE), they found these statistics about emotional learning:

  • 67% of teachers felt that social and emotional learning was a factor in student learning.
  • Almost half of teachers felt that 50% or less of their students had strong social and emotional skills.
  • Academic skills as the highest classroom priority is the most common reason teachers do not create time to teach social and emotional skills.
  • Only 14% of teachers strongly agreed that their undergraduate or graduate programs prepared them for teaching social and emotional skills.

This shows that while most teaching professionals feel that it’s important to teach social goals, most professionals agree that many students are being missed, and that most teachers feel a lack of professional development to teach these skills. Combined with the research completed by Brigham Young University, lack of social education could potentially be reducing our student’s quality of life.

Ed Week’s research also shows that professionals believe that they are missing skills to teach social skills, and that they are not able to prioritize social/emotional skills over academic ones. Public schools have an enormous amount of pressure to preform on the state assessments. With that pressure comes less time for recess, art, play time, social learning, and a myriad of other “non-tested” skills. However, as informed voters, the public needs to decide and then take action that social and emotional skills (and/or life skills) are just as important as academic skills.

Ways To Teach Social and Emotional Learning With Your Child

So what can you do?

  1. Talk to your child daily about their social interactions. Are they talking to other students? What are they saying? Do they have friends?
  2. Role play new social situations with your child. Have your child practice starting conversations, how to avoid potential dangerous situations, how to work through an argument, and how to speak with adults.
  3. Allow practice time for the new situations you have role played or spoken about. Great opportunities for this is at after school programs, sports, or just getting together with friends. Follow up with your child afterwards.
  4. Be an example. Allow your child to see you speak with strangers. Let them see you create, develop, and be a close friend with someone else. Talk to your children about your own friends and family.

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Ways To Support Social and Emotional Learning In Schools

  1. Speak out to your local school district. Attend forums, community nights, PTA meetings, and school events. Parents have a lot of sway over schools. The “squeaky wheel gets the grease.”
  2. Make sure to vote for local school board members, politicians, and local laws. Most laws that directly affect school funding is voted on by the public. Look for advocates for building life skills at school.
  3. Advocate for play time within elementary school. Recess is where students are allowed to practice their social skills naturally.
  4. If you have the time and energy, start your own after school club. Work with the school to gain traction and to correlate with issues the school faces.

What ways have you helped grow emotional and life skills with your children or schools?

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