Before Science, Meditation

The title of this post is identical to the title of an article by Hannah Natanson in the Metro Section of the 23 Feb 2020 issue of the Washington Post. The benefits of meditation and mindfulness are a common theme in the healthy memory blog. And, as the title indicates, meditation and mindfulness is highly beneficial in the schools. Self-reflective exercises such as meditation give students tools to handle stressful situations. If children can expend less energy to stay calm, they’ll have more gusto for learning.

Teachers report, “You can see the change in kids: They cool down, they relax, and they’re just a little bit more open to learning. Meditation and especially mindfulness exercises reduce behavioral problems in the classroom. Kids become kinder. After meditation students offer to help one another with assignments unprompted, tease their peers less and say “please” and “thank you” more often. Some even request good-morning hugs.

Other research has found that sometimes these meditation and mindfulness exercises in the classroom find their way back into their homes and interactions at home are less-stressed, happier and more beneficial.

There is also rigorous research showing that these activities are effective and beneficial to learning. Brain imaging research has found evidence for this in changes in the brains. So the evidence comes not only from behavioral science, but also from neuroscience.

Unfortunately, over the past five years some Christian conservative groups have begun speaking out against practices such as meditation in the schools. These activists argue mindfulness programs violate the constitutionally mandated separation of church and state because they expose students to Buddhists or Hindu ideologies.

This assertion is blatantly false. Although these practices emerged from Buddhist and Hindu ideologies, none of the teachings or beliefs of these ideologies are involved. The benefits of these practices are briefly outlined above. If these Christian groups have any practices that might have beneficial effects to education that have been documented in science, then they should offer them for evaluation.

It is useful to consider Nobel Prize Winner Daniel Kahneman’s Two System View of Cognition here. This was reviewed in the immediately preceding post and has been reviewed many times in previous healthy memory blog posts. System 1 is fast and involves little, if any, mental effort. System 2 is slow, requires mental effort, and is commonly referred to as thinking. Thinking requires mental effort and many people, and these protesting conservative Christians in particular, do not like thinking. Believing is much easier. Unfortunately, these conservative Christians prefer believing, as it requires virtually no mental effort. They do not appreciate that God gave them brains for thinking and that he wants them to use them. Unfortunately, too many religious leaders do not like their members thinking. They want them to believe what they tell them to believe.

© Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com, 2020. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: