SEL Skills Articles

SEL Skills May Have Prevented The Rise Of Darth Vader…

When our team realized this week’s newsletter would go out on Star Wars Day (May the 4th be with you!) we got a little punchy! Then we discovered a very powerful insight…

“You underestimate the power of the Dark Side!” – Darth Vader

soft skills

Anakin’s Lack of SEL Skills Transformed Him to Darth Vader

Darth Vader is one of the most well-recognized villains in movie history. But he may have been much different if Padawan Learners (young children training to become Jedi Knights) were taught social-emotional skills.

The Anakin Skywalker (young Darth Vader) we saw in Episode I of Star Wars, was sweet, loving, endearing, and liked by many.

What happened?!?!

Okay, yes, there was that little thing about his mother dying in Episode II. Not all children that lose a parent decide to join the Dark Side and become a menacing villain. There has to be more… and there is.

There’s no doubt that Anakin Skywalker had raw talent (his midichlorian (Jedi IQ) count was off the charts, remember?).

However, “raw talent” isn’t enough to lead you down the right path. Anakin possessed the technical skills to be an outstanding Jedi. Yet he lacked social-emotional skills, honor, discipline, and good judgment. The Jedi council refused to promote Anakin to the status of Jedi Master, because he “was not yet ready” (he didn’t have the social-emotional skills).

This is where things broke down for Anakin. He felt cheated by the Jedi Council’s early promise that one day he would be a Jedi Master if he trained hard. Anakin felt bitter and entitled. He was easily lured by the promise of a dark power by the evil, Emperor Palpatine. The Emperor assured him powers beyond his wildest dreams… powers “strong enough to cheat death.”

How many teens in Anakin’s position would turn down that offer?

Herein lies the problem for our students. We are training them heavily in technical skills. STEM curriculum is everywhere around the country.

In fact, Millennials entering the workforce are the most highly educated generation in history. Yet at the very same time, they are the lowest skilled generation in history.1

How can that be?!

Students are exposed to greater amounts of content than ever before. Today’s students come across more new information from a day’s worth of news, internet content, and social media, than in an entire life-time in the middle-ages.

However, we’re teaching them how to perform very specific, technical tasks within a controlled environment. We’re asking them questions in the form of multiple-choice tests, then certifying them as career-ready with a degree.

Employers find that these graduates are far from career-ready after escaping the bubble of school…

  • They can’t solve real-world problems by guessing with multiple-choice.
  • They can’t effectively manage their time. They struggle to meet deadlines. Many can’t even read an analog clock on the office wall.
  • They can’t organize their thoughts, materials, and digital content. There’s no teacher or parent to ask if they turned in their work. (Maybe employers needs to start having parent-employer conferences?!)
  • BTW (by the way), IMHO (in my humble opinion), they can’t communicate effectively IRL (in real life), unless they’re LOL (laughing out loud) with their BFF (best friend forever) as they RT (retweet) TMI (too much information).

And, they can’t easily learn new things unless someone (a teacher) is delivering it in a carefully organized fashion. So, employers provide Standard Operating Procedures on in text, audio, and video form, because everyone learns differently; and that’s how they learned to get the degree that got them this job in the first place.

The result is a generation that lives out of Mom & Dad’s basement, unemployed or underemployed. They feel cheated from wealth promised from getting that degree.

Meanwhile, employers feel cheated too. They have expectations that someone with a degree should be able to solve a problem on their own, and not just for partial credit by showing their work.

When Anakin lacked the social-emotional skills to become a Jedi Master, he said “heck with it” and joined the Dark Side. Could future generations wise-up to the false promise of “get a degree and there’s wealth awaiting you” and join their own “Dark Side?”

This is a real dilemma facing our country. This isn’t a movie that just ends well on its own. If we don’t change the paradigm, this story won’t end well.

So, what can we do?

Teach social-emotional skills. Train our students to be independent learners today, so they can be self-motivated, real-world, problem-solvers tomorrow.

SOAR® Social-Emotional Learning Skills & SOAR® Learning & Soft Skills covers ALL of the most in-demand social-emotional and study skills. It is proven to raise GPA’s, on average, by more than one-full point and comes with a 100% money-back guarantee.

Are you an educator looking to teach your students social-emotional learning skills or study skills?  Sign up for our “How Do I Feel?” Curriculum Kit, that includes our complete module on feelings in the blue box on the right of this page.


May the 4th be with you,

Brian Winter, M.Ed.
Co-Author & President, SOAR® Learning, Inc.
Part-time Recreational Jedi

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