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Social-emotional learning for everyone

Citizenship depends on it

Aren’t our politics emotional enough? Not exactly. We’re not born with the ability to engage civically—we have to learn! And, as Clay Cook described to CEHD alumni at a program last fall, among the essential mental equipment of good citizens everywhere is what psychologists call emotional intelligence, or EQ.

“It’s not just IQ but EQ, too,” says Cook, associate professor of educational psychology. Emotional intelligence has a role in promoting citizenship and citizen engagement, which is why he became part of the Minnesota Civic Studies Initiative based in CEHD.

Good citizenship depends on developing such abilities as listening, awareness, empathy, cooperation, respectful communication, participation, and courage. Balanced education and role models are needed. But many adults don’t have civic engagement skills, either. And chronic stress can make people disengage politically.

“Smarts alone won’t get us where we need to be,” said Cook. “Emotional competency and self-regulation are key.”

Cook says our current political divide did not occur overnight but has been widening for decades. That means it will take the efforts of citizens everywhere to close it. Thankfully, every citizen has the capacity to help—granted the chance to learn how.

Attend the 2nd Annual Minnesota Symposium on Civic Renewal on October 27. Learn more at or email Trygve Throntveit, Dean’s Fellow for Civic Studies at

Return to Back to school with social-emotional learning.

Story by Gayla Marty | Fall 2018