13 January 2016

Mindfulness in Schools

William James a renowned psychologist said, “The faculty to voluntarily bring back wandering attention, over and over again, is the very root of judgment, character and will. An education which improved this faculty would be an education par excellence.”

(I would have said it if he hadn’t).

It should be compulsory that mindfulness is taught in schools.  It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that if they were developing social and emotional skills besides reading, writing and whatever that last one is (I didn’t flourish in school) then there might be drop in crime, self-harming, drug abuse, mental illness and even suicide. I hope someone in the government is reading this.

On a smaller scale if this latest generation could possibly learn to be less greedy than we were, they just might be able to save the planet that we trashed.  What I mean by emotional intelligence is learning how to relate to other earthlings, creating trust and rapport and dare I say it? Compassion.   We aren’t really specializing in those skill sets now and it turns out that some of the brightest end up as the most emotionally stunted.  They have brains but these high achievers sometimes end up being the ones who screw the rest of us folk  the hardest with no conscience (see Bernie Madoff, the board  of Enron, Martha Stewart, Alan Greenspan, etc.).

These days kids are force-fed information to get the grades; who cares if they really understand the subject as long as they memorized the facts and ace the exams.  When we’re pumped too full of pressure, the first thing to crash and burn is memory. How do we expect kids to flourish or learn anything when they’re pushed to extremes to get high grades and then they can’t remember anything? Kid’s brains are like little landmines that can go off later in life if they’re put under too much pressure.

I used to be interested in history until I had to cram the entire Mesopotamian Empire into my brain in one night of cramming…. and got a D.  I then never spoke of it again. Mesopotamia was out of the picture for the rest of my life. Shame.  There were so many subjects I would have been interested to study but I knew with all of them that the day would come when I’d have to spew my knowledge onto a piece of paper in a limited amount of time. So I lost my erection for education quite early.

Forget being inspired by anything, your mission is only to get into the next school and the next and the next, there will always be something you have to get into next. I just could never distil all the information on a course into a well-crafted essay; I write how I talk and sometimes there is no end to a sentence. This is why now I don’t know any history, math, languages and most of the other subjects I flunked with flying colours.

If you don’t fail, you don’t fight.  It’s the innovators who try, fail, try, fail…those are the real winners.   It should be on every epitaph, “He tried.” Every new invention and creation was originally met with derision.  There are many people who tend to fight original ideas mainly because they don’t have them. Teachers should teach kids to go for the great idea with no fear of getting an F on spelling when they’re writing up their opus.  Mozart probably couldn’t spell nor could any Mesopotamian. (I learnt that much). And rather than teachers being made to concentrate on ramming information into the kids’ minds, so they can regurgitate it out on the test paper later and forget it the next day, they should be in the business of igniting their little imaginations. “You don’t fatten a pig by weighing it.”

While I’m on my roll, I think they should also have a course on the art of failing. Students need to know how to deal with it as early as possible because later in their lives they’re going to be carpet bombed with it.  If they seriously believe that their status as Captain of the Team is going to continue after they graduate school, they’ll find themselves badly shot down in flames with third degree burns.

This is why the most popular cheerleaders often end up as crack whores. They weren’t ready for the big wide world, they didn’t learn the lesson of all lessons; you cannot be perky forever. A set of smiley choppers, big bazookas and pigtails just don’t cut it when you’re forty-five.

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