The surgeon general really needs to slap a health warning on the New York Times. My blood pressure increases a few points every time I read it. This week, the newspaper of record pimped the Next Great American Education Fad: In-school yoga classes.
According to the piece, “Less Homework, More Yoga, From a Principal Who Hates Stress,” the head of Needham High School in the Boston suburbs is pushing “stress reduction” through better stretching and breathing. Principal Paul Richards, who last earned nationwide mockery when he ditched publishing the honor roll, is part-Oprah, part-Deepak Chopra, part-Richard Simmons, and all edu-babble.
“It’s not that I’m trying to turn the culture upside down,” he’s quoted telling the Times. “It’s very important to protect the part of the culture that leads to all the achievement,” he said. “It’s more about bringing the culture to a healthier place.”
And here I thought high-school principals should make schooling, not “bringing the culture to a healthier place,” their top priority. Silly me. Welcome to your new nanny-state nightmare.
Yoga classes are now a requirement for Needham high -school seniors. To further ease the supposed burden on overworked students, Richards has “asked teachers to schedule homework-free weekends and holidays.” Just what we need to turn around those one in ten schools that are now considered “dropout factories,” huh? Can’t cut it in the classroom? Bend like a bridge, take five deep, slow breaths, and all will be dandy.
Why stop at yoga? Tantric chanting, here we come. And, hey, Kabbalah has done wonders for Madonna. Let’s add hypnotism and acupuncture classes while we’re at it. Hot stone massages? Bonsai tree-clipping? No Relaxation Technique Left Behind!
Some point to a number of tragic student suicides to justify larding up the school day with Tree Poses and Sun Salutations. But the school officials themselves admit the deaths were not related to stress. No matter. Richards is using them to forge ahead with “a movement to push back against an ethos of super-achievement at affluent suburban high schools amid the extreme competition over college admissions.” It appears there are now more than 40 other high schools and middle schools that embrace the “Stressed Out Students” agenda. There’s another yoga curriculum popular in California, Yoga Ed., that has trained 10,000 teachers in more than 100 schools nationwide.