According to recent media reports, middle schools in San Francisco have been using the Quiet Program, devised by the Center for Wellness and Achievement in Education, that teaches students aged 11 years to 14 years the Hindu practice of transcendental meditation. Under the program, students spend 15 minutes meditating two times each day, as school administrators believe violence outside the school, which is located in one of San Francisco’s shoddiest neighborhoods, had been spilling into the school and thus influencing the demeanor of its students.
“The kids see guns on a daily basis,” the school's athletic director, Barry O'Driscoll said, adding, “there would be fights here three-to-five times a week.”
Since typical school days were filled with mayhem, O’Driscoll was quite unsure when San Francisco Public School District decided to form a partnership with the Center for Wellness and Achievement in Education to introduce this particular meditation program in four of its schools, including Visitacion Valley.
“I thought this is hippy stuff that didn't work in the '70s, so how's it gonna work now,” O'Driscoll said.
But, O’Driscoll claims to have been stunned when over a four-year period, suspensions in the school decreased by 79 percent while academic performances and attendances increased significantly.
Similar results were seen at Burton High School, which had earlier been dubbed Fight School. Principal Bill Kappenhagen agreed he was skeptical at first but once the program was implemented, he was stunned to see the positive impact Quiet Program had on the students.
“I was like, 'There's no way I'm going to steal time from English instruction or math instruction in order to do that’,” said Kappenhagen.
After noticing a 75 percent decrease in suspensions, Kappenhagen decided to extend the school’s timings by 30 minutes so the program could be incorporated in the students’ lives on a daily basis. Students, too, have gone on to say that they are more aware of their actions, feel less angry and sense an increased amount of calmness after participating in the program.
Kappenhagen said there is no magic wand that can be used to improve education or life but at the same time, he cited Mayo Clinic’s findings that suggest meditation can in fact increase a person’s average level of focus and calmness. Even though the principal cannot alter the environment his students stay in outside of school, he said he is glad to have found a way to help them deal with violence, trauma and stress inside Burton High School on a daily basis.
Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, who was a disciple of Swami Brahmananda Saraswati, repackaged Hindu practices to make them more appealing and acceptable to Western culture. He introduced these practices to hippies in America during the 1960s and 70s. While adherents of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi claim publically and rather deceitfully, that transcendental meditation is a completely scientific method that helps relieve stress, his critics have often questioned why the yogi chooses to stay quiet about the practice’s religious aspects.
Photo Credits: Daily Heal