One of the hottest topics in modern education is the need to teach kids emotional skills.

This year, as the Seattle Times reports, several Seattle school districts are adopting a Yale-developed program called “RULER” (“Recognize, Understand, Label, Express and Regulate emotions”) to teach kids “emotional smarts alongside academics.” 

The program is predictably bizarre-sounding and touchy-feely. Students are taught to pause after experiencing an emotion like anger and imagine how their “best-selves” would handle the situation. This is called a “meta-moment,” and it’s being taught to kids in hundreds of schools across the country:

“‘Just as we are teaching 5- and 6-year-olds how to read, how do we think about ways to encourage them to reflect on their emotional state of mind,’ said Jenniffer Reinig, who oversees Highline’s [a Seattle school district] elementary school principals…

And at Southern Heights [a Highline school], RULER family nights and the school’s newsletter are keeping parents in the loop about charters, meta-moments, and ‘mood meters’—a sheet of graph paper divided into four colored quadrants—designed to expand students’ vocabularies about emotion beyond happy, mad and sad.”

It’s hard to imagine our ancestors sitting in a classroom and pausing from learning Greek and Latin to indulge in a “meta-moment.”  What has gone so wrong in our society that schools—where many students are failing to learn academic basics—feel the need to teach emotional skills?