Oh, criminey. Just what American high school students need: “Less homework, more yoga:”
It was 6:30 p.m. The lights were still on at Needham High School, here in the affluent Boston suburbs. Paul Richards, the principal, was meeting with the Stress Reduction Committee.
On the agenda: finding the right time to bring in experts to train students in relaxation techniques.
Don’t try to have them teach relaxation in study hall, said Olivia Boyd, a senior. Students, she explained, won’t want to interrupt their work. They were already too busy before or after school for the training.
No one is busier than Josh Goldman. Captain of varsity tennis, president of the Spanish club and a member of the student council and the Stress Reduction Committee, Josh was not able to squeeze in the meeting at all.
Mr. Richards noted his absence wryly. “Josh is a perfect example,” he said. “He’s got a hundred things going on.”
Here is the high-powered culture that Mr. Richards is trying to change, even if only a little.
Now, Richards is leading an entire cult of educrats more obsessed with reducing “stress” and coddling fragile minds and bodies than with challenging students to push themselves to the limit and demanding nothing less than their best:
Mr. Richards is just one principal in the vanguard of a movement to push back against an ethos of super-achievement at affluent suburban high schools amid the extreme competition over college admissions. He has joined like-minded administrators from 44 other high schools and middle schools — most in the San Francisco Bay Area but others scattered from Texas to New York — to form a group known as S.O.S., for Stressed Out Students.
The group was formed four years ago by Denise Pope, a lecturer at the Stanford University School of Education and author of the book, “Doing School: How We Are Creating a Generation of Stressed Out, Materialistic and Miseducated Students” (Yale University Press, 2001).
High schools in other Boston suburbs — Wellesley, Lexington, Wayland — have taken steps similar to Needham’s, organizing stress committees and yoga classes. Some high schools are requiring students to get parental permission before enrolling in Advanced Placement classes. Others are experimenting with later start times so students can get more sleep.
Welcome to 21st century public education in the US, where one in 10 schools are “dropout factories:”
No more honor rolls to reward the high achievers.
Forced bilingual ed for students who don’t speak Spanish.
Pledges of allegiance to the planet.
The penetration of fuzzy math, whole language, and other destructive pedagogical fads.
And just this summer, the U.S. dropped out of prestigious international math competitions in the wake of bottom-of-the-barrel test results.
Self-esteem rises, academic rigor plunges.
American kids’ brains are getting emptier every year.
But they’ll have the most limber muscles in the world. Hooray.
Oh, double criminey. See-Dubya points to yet another idiotic addition to the mush-minded, academic-depleted curriculum: “Mindfulness.”
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