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Friday, January 24, 2014

Saving the World by Sitting Still

Posted by David Schmader on Fri, Jan 24, 2014 at 1:29 PM

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Created by the David Lynch Foundation—yes, that David Lynch—Quiet Time is the program that seeks to bring daily meditation to America's schools. According to this story in the SF Gate, it's been a pretty stunning success:

At first glance, Quiet Time - a stress reduction strategy used in several San Francisco middle and high schools, as well as in scattered schools around the Bay Area - looks like something out of the om-chanting 1960s. Twice daily, a gong sounds in the classroom and rowdy adolescents, who normally can't sit still for 10 seconds, shut their eyes and try to clear their minds. I've spent lots of time in urban schools and have never seen anything like it.

In years past, [students at Visitacion Valley Middle School] were largely out of control, frequently fighting in the corridors, scrawling graffiti on the walls and cursing their teachers. Absenteeism rates were among the city's highest and so were suspensions. Worn-down teachers routinely called in sick. Unsurprisingly, academics suffered. The school tried everything, from counseling and peer support to after-school tutoring and sports, but to disappointingly little effect.

Now these students are doing light-years better. In the first year of Quiet Time, the number of suspensions fell by 45 percent. Within four years, the suspension rate was among the lowest in the city. Daily attendance rates climbed to 98 percent, well above the citywide average. Grade point averages improved markedly. About 20 percent of graduates are admitted to Lowell High School - before Quiet Time, getting any students into this elite high school was a rarity. Remarkably, in the annual California Healthy Kids Survey, these middle school youngsters recorded the highest happiness levels in San Francisco.

Of course Christian fundamentalists love to characterize any sort of secular deep breathing/sitting still/stretching as satanic witchcraft, so who knows how far such an idea would be allowed to spread in the U.S. But still, fascinating. Full thing here.

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