Wednesday’s Guardian published an interesting piece on the power of meditation, which reinforces the argument for introducing mindfulness more consistently into our schools. The article convinces in spite of Rice’s less than perceptive comment about guns near the start:
Its origins are in the 1990s when two Silicon Valley investors – Jeff Rice and Laurent Valosek – developed a programme to teach meditation in public schools, inspired by the tragic Columbine high school massacre. “After the shooting, the usual culprits were blamed: guns, violent movies and video games,” says Rice. “But no one touched on the real problem – stress.”
I also understand the point that is often made that separating meditation from its spiritual context can lead to its being suborned to all sorts of dubious purposes of which Zen’s assistance with Sumarai killing skills is only the most famous example. The article is clearly dealing with a benign and necessary use of meditation and one which could have lasting beneficial effects.
Below is a short extract: for the full post see link.
There was a time when Visitacion Valley middle school in San Francisco could have featured in a gritty US crime drama. Surrounded by drugs and gang violence, the kids were stressed out and agitated. One day children came in to find three dead bodies dumped in the schoolyard. “In 2006 there were 38 killings in our neighbourhood,” says Barry O’Driscoll, the school’s head of physical education (PE). He says the lives of students were infected by violence in the community, and several fights would break out every day.
In 2007 a meditation programme called Quiet Time was brought in to meet some of these challenges. “When I first heard about it I thought it probably wasn’t going to work,” says O’Driscoll. “We get thrown a new thing every couple of years so I didn’t put too much faith in it.” But in April, just a month after meditation began, teachers noticed changes in behaviour. “Students seemed happy,” says O’Driscoll. “They worked harder, paid more attention, were easier to teach and the number of fights fell dramatically.”
In the first year of Quiet Time, suspensions at Visitacion Valley – which has 500 students aged 11-13 – were reduced by 45% (pdf). By 2009-10, attendance rates were over 98% (some of the highest in the city), and today 20% of graduates are admitted to the highly academic Lowell high school – before it was rare for even one student to be accepted. Perhaps even more remarkable, last year’s California Healthy Kids Survey from the state’s education department found that students at Visitacion Valley middle school were the happiest in the whole of San Francisco.