This sort of thing is increasingly prevalent in the independent sector:
Yesterday, it was announced that head teachers from 200 of the country’s leading independent schools will attend a conference next month to learn how to equip their pupils with emotional resilience, so that they can deal better with stress and failure.
(Full article in The Telegraph)
As ever with curricula that promote skills over knowledge, it is hard to find fault with the skill itself. Who wouldn’t want their children or pupils to be emotionally resilient? It is the method by which these skills are ‘taught’ that is more suspect.
Pastoral care; competitive sports and examinations; the study of traditional subjects (especially the Humanities): all of these facets of school life, to name just a few, have been, in the hands of humane and experienced teachers, the seedbed of ’emotional resilience’ for many centuries. The only suggestions I could find in this article (“nurture a positive view of yourself”; “practice optimism”) seem at best banal. At worst, such suggested ‘interventions’ are an invasion of unnecessarily therapeutic language into an arena in which they may help to aggravate the very problem they purport to solve.
One of the mini-essays I’m planning is a profile on Anthony Seldon. Is he our generation’s Thomas Arnold? One thing is for certain: there is no man in independent education today who is better at dominating the headlines.
Yesterday, he was promoting his Conference on Mindfulness by commenting on stillness in schools:
He said that the decline of old fashioned religious assemblies had robbed many pupils of the ability to “reflect during the school day” just as large numbers of children faced unprecedented levels of stress.
Not a bad idea in theory, but it left me thinking: what was wrong with chapel?
I have been meaning to research Mindfulness in more detail this year. Like “Neuro-linguistic Programming” (NLP), the word has a rather synthetic quality – but I shall endeavour to read more before commenting.
All I can say for now is that it is gathering momentum in many UK boarding schools. See this letter published in The Guardian yesterday (which cites this fuller piece):
While mindfulness gains popularity and we hear of its increasing use in schools, I want to bring your attention to the long held practice of Quakers, where we gather in silence to calm the mind and focus the attention. While other schools start bringing this mindful practice in to their extended curriculum, Sidcot School in Somerset celebrates the fact that they have provided breathing space for staff and students for over 300 years.
Director, Centre for peace and global studies, Sidcot School
The letter led to another discovery: Sidcot School have a Centre for Peace and Global Studies!