Social emotional learning (SEL) initiatives play an increasingly important role in American prekindergarten through 12th-grade education. Given the focus on equity by both SEL leaders and the music education community, it is important to examine how SEL initiatives might promote or inhibit equity. The purpose of this philosophical inquiry is to consider the relationship between the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) SEL Framework and equity through the lens of neoliberalism. After examining how neoliberal practices contribute to economic and social inequities, I demonstrate three areas of alignment between CASEL's SEL Framework and neoliberalism. First, proponents of CASEL's SEL Framework and neoliberalism conceive of individuals as separate, responsible beings who can independently control their own economic and life destinies; they understand failure as a personal, rather than societal, problem. Second, neoliberalism demands ongoing self-surveillance in order to create more productive workers, and SEL initiatives extend existing surveillance techniques within schools to the affective realm, including through both student self-surveillance and teacher surveillance of students’ emotions. Third, both emphasize traditional morals, including those related to discipline and delayed gratification. The extensive alignment between neoliberal ideals and the CASEL SEL Framework suggests that such policies often work in tension with equity initiatives. Yet, given that students marginalized because of their race, class, gender identity, or other qualities often endure more emotional trauma than other student populations, the absence of attention to students’ emotional well-being may further existing inequities. I conclude by offering a reimagining of SEL policy initiatives that focuses on four guiding questions.

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