Wildmind Meditation News
Aug 07, 2009
Transcendental Meditation in Tucson schools
Examiner: My previous articles on TM have generated a lot of comments and, no doubt this one will too. But I hope some of the comments will be from local people who are students or teachers and parents of students who practice TM in schools.
I spoke recently with Denice Gerace, a TM teacher in Tucson, who teaches TM to students at schools in the Tucson Unified School District, about her program.
Q. How much do the schools have to pay for the program?
A. Nothing, because it was funded by a grant from the David Lynch Foundation.
Q. But still the cost per student is $800, about half the cost of the regular initiation fee. Do you think the cost will be lowered further considering these difficult economic times so that the funds the foundation receives can go for more student initiations?
A. I don’t think so. We are a non-profit organization, so all our fees go into supporting our programs. The initiation fee pays for more than my salary. It’s used for things like the day-to-day expenses of running the program, office space, classroom space, coordination with regional and national offices, and for research. Keep in mind that students have free checkups for life. They can walk into any TM center in the world to have their meditation checked.
Q. Speaking of research, have there been any recent studies on TM in schools?
A. Yes. A paper was presented at a recent meeting of the Society of Behavioral Medicine in San Diego. It found that teens practicing TM had less hyperactivity and stress. Other studies show that TM helps students with ADHD, and the GPA of TM students in a San Fransisco Middle School was half a point higher. It’s too early to say anything about the GPA of students in Tucson.
Q. What about anecdotal results? What feedback have you gotten from students, teachers and parents?
A. The students appreciate the chance to be quiet. One girl, who is among the best students in the district, went from having to spend five hours to write a good paper to one and a half hours. Students with ADHD were able to sit still and pay attention and appreciate the subject and teacher. One student went from getting Ds and Fs in science to Bs and As. Teachers are happy with the program because students don’t act out. Some went from unmanageable to well-behaved. Parents find that their child isn’t rebelling, does chores, and has a better relationship with them. One parent called a school to make sure the program would continue next school year.
Q. Have you taught teachers and administrators?
A. Quite a few teachers and administrators learned. They said it helped a lot with the stress of this year’s budget cuts. Also, some teachers with health problems, such as sleep apnea, diabetes, and high blood pressure experienced significant improvement.
Q. Is the program voluntary?
A. All students have a 15-minute quiet time, but they can choose what to do during that time. TM is one of the choices. They can also read or engage in silent prayer.
Q. What exactly do you do in the program?
A. I instruct the students, provide additional information, and once a month I give students an opportunity to have their meditation checked and talk about their experiences.
Q. Do you present the TM-Siddhi program, ayurveda, and videos of Maharishi.
A. We don’t talk about the TM-Siddhi program or ayurveda and most students probably wouldn’t pay attention to a video of a talking head for more than half a minute. But if high school students want to form a TM club and watch videos of Maharishi after school, that would be great.
Q. What do you say to critics who insist that TM is a religion and doesn’t belong in public schools?
A. Our culture is gradually accepting the fact that other cultures have something of value to offer. There is a huge body of scientific documentation on the benefits of TM. It is not from the Hindu religion but from the Vedic tradition of knowledge, similar to the West’s scientific tradition.
Q. But how do you explain the puja to school administrators?
A. It’s a one time thing. Also, we explain that TM is more effective than other meditation techniques because it is taught precisely just as it was thousands of years ago, and we honor the lineage of past teachers with the puja. It’s not a religious ceremony but a ceremony that honors the teachers.
Q. Why can’t someone learn TM from a CD?
A. Each person learns at his or her own pace. What may be difficult to understand and apply for one person may be easy for another and vice versa. TM teachers are highly trained professionals and will know how to guide each person through the learning process.