Saturday, August 10, 2019

Chicago Tribune reports on allegations made by high school students, that they were coerced to practice TM

See also, here at the TM-Free Blog: 

Recently, the Chicago Board of Education heard rather disturbing testimony from a substitute teacher and a student at one of the schools in which the so-called “Quiet Time” program was active during the past school year. “Quiet Time” is a euphemistic name that the David Lynch Foundation (DLF) uses to describe their Transcendental Meditation (TM) program that they have sought to establish in secondary schools in a number of countries, including public high schools in the United States. The DLF offers what it calls scientific evidence that such a program is beneficial to students, despite reviews and other research that indicate that, for many if not most people, such benefits are elusive to nonexistent, and that meditation may be detrimental for some individuals.

In this instance, the program was implemented by TM teachers and others working for the DLF in several Chicago high schools, including the school that was the source of these objections, Bogan Computer Technical High School. According to a 2015 University press release and web page, the David Lynch Foundation was paid $300,000 by the University of Chicago’s Urban Labs department to initiate this program in several Chicago public high schools, as part of what is claimed to be a scientific research study. The program is being supervised under the direction of several University of Chicago Urban Labs personnel. Students in the program are to meditate twice daily at the beginning and end of the school day, devoting at least part of two class periods that would otherwise be spent receiving instruction or doing other academic work, to meditation.

Along with the same allegation that was raised over forty years ago in US Federal courts - that students were required to participate in a religious ritual, in a public school, if they were to learn TM, and that once resulted in a permanent injunction against the teaching of TM in public schools - the Board heard that students were pressured into joining the program, and were subject to disciplinary action, including the dropping of grades, if they did not comply. Of course, all such tactics involving discipline or coercion of meditators in what has been promoted as a research study, would completely invalidate any claim to scientific legitimacy of any attempted published research on the benefits of meditation that may later result.

The Chicago Tribune recently reported on this Board of Education meeting which can also be viewed directly on YouTube. According to one of the Bogan High School students who spoke before the board, Jade Thomas, many students were uncomfortable with “a secret ritual and a secret mantra,” basic features of the TM program already known to millions of meditators worldwide. Her statement also clearly indicated that she and other students were coerced into joining or continuing to participate in the program. “Students don't have a choice to participate, if you don't continue participating with the program the students will be sent to the dean's office," she said. "If you talk during Quiet Time they will threaten to drop your grades. Students who don't feel comfortable doing the Quiet Time training will be forced to."

Jade also stated that for the students at Bogen, the meditation program takes time away from actual classroom instruction: “The school has had Quiet Time involved in our schedule which happens every second and seventh period.”

Dasia Skinner, the substitute teacher, told the Board that she had spoken with 60 students at Bogan who all had similar accounts of having gone through the “secret” puja ritual, which has been an integral part of instruction in Transcendental Meditation for over 50 years. “All of this was done without parents’ knowledge or the students’ understanding,” she said, and that students were told, “whatever happens in this room, stays in this room.”

The Chicago Tribune report also contained the usual rebuttals and denials from the David Lynch Foundation’s website, the school district’s chief education officer, a Bogen teacher, and other unnamed officials, insisting that the program was not religious in any way. No responsible officials named in the report, with both the University or the school district, expressed any awareness that the teaching of Transcendental Meditation includes these practices that are unquestionably part of the religious traditions of India until it was discussed at the Board meeting.

According to the Tribune article, Jonathan Guryan, faculty co-director of the University of Chicago’s education lab, stated that students were offered the chance to opt-out of the program, but it’s unclear from that whether the students, and their parents, were clearly given enough information about the program to be able to give informed consent for their participation. The puja ritual performed by TM teachers, and the mantras, have always been considered proprietary by them and their organization, and it isn’t discussed in any detail by teachers before instructing people in the practice of TM. In any case, if this program in schools were actually the subject of a scientific research study, the conventional requirements of informed consent, which do apply to studies in the social sciences, would not be satisfied by just an opportunity to opt out of a vaguely described meditation practice. Consent to participate as a test subject may also be revoked at any time; the student’s allegations of not being allowed to stop meditating or withdraw from the program is contrary to this requirement.

There is one small glimmer of good news in the article for those who have long sought to bar the David Lynch Foundation and other TM affiliated organizations from having access to public schools. The continued involvement of University of Chicago’s Urban Lab may be in doubt, given the sentiment attributed to the lab’s co-director: “Guryan said researchers have started a preliminary analysis but are uncertain whether they’ll continue evaluating the program in the upcoming school year.”

Sources:

“What’s wrong with a Chicago public high school teaching transcendental meditation? Plenty, critics claim.” Hannah Leone, Chicago Tribune, July 26, 2019.

Chicago Board of Education Monthly Meeting, July 24, 2019, presentation by Dasia Skinner and Jade Thomas. Youtube video beginning at 2:10:52.

For further reading:

Parents Against TM Facebook page

Parents Against TM Facebook video of interview with two Bogan High School students

No comments:

Post a Comment