New Age Teaching in Our Schools
"A generation in love with Tolkien's fantasy and Castaneda's sorcery are ready for magic in themselves and in their young children."
"You can only have a new society. if you change the education of the younger people." - Marilyn Ferguson, The Aquarian Conspiracy
"What did you do in school today?" used to be asked without fear. But today many parents are surprised to find out what is going on in both public and many private schools.
Parents who aren't hearing unusual answers should not necessarily feel secure, because some children are told not to tell their parents what they are doing. Watchman Fellowship has several examples of such cases on file.
In November of 1988 Watchman received a letter from a couple involved in researching a program used in elementary schools in Florida and other states. This program utilized tapes called "Quieting Reflex and Success Imagery." A mother had told this couple that her little girl had contacted an inner guide through the hypnotic techniques used in this program. The daughter commented, "My 'wise person' told me not to pray in the name of Jesus anymore." Further, this "wise person" was not the guide that the little girl had chosen for herself but rather someone that had appeared unexpectedly and spontaneously in her consciousness. It claimed that it resided in the corner of a "safe place" in her mind. But it proceeded to command her to do "mean and nasty things." The mother was distraught and had no idea what to do.
Perhaps you saw the "Oprah Winfrey Show" when she had Shirley MacLaine as her guest, explaining her spiritual journey into the New Age Movement and Eastern mysticism. Oprah asked Shirley, "What question were you asking yourself, that needed answers?"
Shirley responded with, "Who am I, where am I going, what is life all about, where do I go when I die?"
Oprah urged on, "And when you asked the questions, how did the answers come?"
Shirley smiled and said, "Well, first I had to learn how to meditate. I had to be very quiet, to be still - and then boom, the answers would come to me." And the answers are coming to little schoolchildren as well.
Standard induction techniques of meditation or hypnosis, commonly called progressive relaxation and guided imagery or visualization, are being imposed on our young children all over the country. Why does it matter? It matters because these techniques are being used to shape children's worldviews and open them to spiritual influences which may be dangerous to their mental/emotional health, not to mention their spiritual health.
According to Melton's New Age Encyclopedia some 300 colleges and educational institutions (over 75 are accredited or state-approved) now offer programs or even degrees on New Age topics (pp. 512-24). This has influenced many educators who have proceeded to introduce these topics into their schools.Brooks Alexander, noted authority on New Age philosophy, observes why the New Age has targeted education:
"In the ideological contest for cultural supremacy public education is the prime target; it influences the most people in the most pervasive way at the most impressionable age. No other social institution has anything close to the same potential for mass indoctrination" (as cited in Forward magazine, Fall 1986, p. 14).
Children especially are targeted because most New Agers (such as prominent educator Jack Canfield) believe that the innate innocence and sensitivity of children render them much closer to the influences of the spiritual world - such as the spirits who reside there. These are the very spirits who seek to help direct the course of human evolution into a New Age of peace and prosperity. By reaching children before they have been "corrupted" by Western culture and Christian values, New Agers hope they can educate an entire generation to the spiritual values of New Age philosophy. In other words, if children can be indoctrinated in New Age techniques and beliefs, as adults they will become powerful agents of change, helping to move society toward a new era of global harmony.
How did those of a New Age or transpersonal perspective manage to slip their ideas into the public school curricula? In part, they have been effective because they have often arranged their beliefs under the disguise of neutral, academic, psychological, or scientific sounding terminology. If parents want to protect their children in the public schools, they should become familiar with the new terminology used by these educators. For example, "transpersonal psychology" sounds pretty impressive. So does adjusting one's "left brain/right brain" equilibrium. What could be wrong with such a harmless sounding concept as "guided imagery" or "centering"? And who would think that "human potential" or imaginary "inner guides" might be capable of leading to a more sinister reality?
In some ways transpersonal and humanistic education are still in their infancy, but their influence is growing. The reason is simple. We now live in a culture in which tens of millions of people have rejected traditional Judeo-Christian principles and have opened the doors to exploration of occult phenomena. This has not only influenced education, but also many other aspects of modern culture.
Although unconventional educators believe that by endorsing these disciplines they are truly helping students and society at large, there are legitimate reasons to question this assumption. Because of underlying philosophies and potential dangers (whether physical, psychological, or spiritual), these practices and techniques are not promoting the best interest of our nation or its children.Yoga and Eastern meditation may indeed calm a nervous student; visualization, guided imagery, and fantasy practices could possibly help improve his grades or creativity; teaching principles of psychic development may enhance his sense of self-importance and increase his sense of power. There is power in occult techniques and philosophy, as pagan and occult history demonstrates. But what is the ultimate cost of exposing our children to the occult? Those enamored with a child's "human potential" usually reject any concept of demonic activity, but this does not change the facts. Those persons integrating Eastern and occult methods and ideas into school curricula will exact a great cost and lay a heavy burden on our children and future generations.
Again, many educators truly do have good motives, and they really do care for children and educational excellence, but they may not understand all that is involved in occult practice.
It is important to realize that New Age visualization, guided imagery, and hypnosis are not merely dealing with the natural or even innocent use of the imagination. In normal use of the imagination, there is a discriminating use of internal thoughts. The person is in control of how he uses these thoughts whether it is visualizing winning a race, or what it would be like to marry a certain person. This natural use of the imagination is not what is found in New Age visualization, guided imagery or hypnosis.
In essence, it is the particular characteristics of visualization, guided imagery, and hypnosis that distinguish them from a normal use of imagination. These may include: the use of relaxation, suggestion, the creation of a new reality, an altered state of consciousness, being directed by another person so that the participant is not ultimately in control, and having to be brought out of the internal condition into which one has been placed. Further, visualization, guided imagery, and hypnosis can all be powerful methods for introducing children to the occult, something not true of a person's own unaided imagination.
New Age visualization attempts to use the mind to actually control reality outside oneself. For example, it might attempt to influence events, objects, or even people through a supposed psychic power of the mind that "travels" across space to have an influence.
Guided imagery is a primary induction technique for hypnosis. Hypnosis uses relaxation and psychological suggestions in order to produce a "new reality" wholly inside the mind of the subject. For example, when a child reaches a suggestible state of mind (without discrimination and where he is not in control of his inner environment), and he starts to do, remember, or believe things that ultimately aren't real, and then he has to be brought out of that state of mind by another person, this is guided imagery or hypnosis. A teacher employing these techniques on students may have innocent motives, but still there may be hidden psychological and spiritual consequences to these methods.
Consider another example of how new educational methods can be counterproductive: values clarification. New Age Masquerade author Eric Buehrer recalls how he initially failed in his role as a teacher to instruct his inner-city students that it was wrong to steal. Why? It was because he had adopted a "values clarification" approach. During his first year of teaching, he told his students that he was going to help them grow in the decision making process through values clarification. He asked his class how many of them felt that stealing was okay. Half the class felt it was fine. So he attempted to "clarify those values." What he found was that the kids clarified for him what their values were - and they had endless justifications for their belief that stealing was right. Buehrer discovered that in values clarification it is impossible for a teacher to bring his or her own value judgment into the educational process. All a teacher can do is affirm to students that it is okay to believe whatever they want to believe. He further became convinced that values clarification was a terrible thing to teach impressionable youngsters. He concluded that not only should we teach students absolute values, but that we must teach them absolute values.
"If we don't, then we can write off all these other issues, whether it's abortion or euthanasia or promiscuity or drug abuse - it doesn't matter. If at the root of it, the child believes that whatever he chooses is right simply because he chooses it - then we've lost the battle" (As discussed in "Are the Public Schools Teaching Our Children New Age Religious Views?" series one, program two, broadcast on "The John Ankerberg Show," September,1992).
Parents and educators need to be not only responsive but proactive, in an informed and intelligent manner. Toward that end the following summary conclusions and observations are offered:
- The New Age Movement is a spiritual and sociological phenomenon in our country. Its beliefs and practices are establishing themselves in many areas of our culture.
- It can be demonstrated that there are many educators and curriculum developers who are either personally involved in the New Age perspective or have accepted the practices, techniques, and theories without knowledge of their source.
- It can be demonstrated that the adoption of New Age/occult ideology and practices is not just sporadic and random, but that there is an underlying philosophical current in place, ready to produce a flood of these curricula into the public schools across America.
- These beliefs typically enter public schooling through counseling programs, self-esteem, stress-reduction, health and gifted programs, creative writing classes, some global education courses, and some literature curricula.
- The usual form these programs take is in deep breathing relaxation or progressive relaxation exercises, guided imagery, and visualization. These are sometimes associated with inappropriate and ineffective value-free or affective learning programs.
- The techniques and the presuppositions on which such programs are based are intrinsic to Eastern and other mystical religious traditions and practices (such as Hinduism and meditation). Further, they are frequently synonymous with the techniques of hypnosis and trance induction. Unfortunately, these techniques are disguised to project a secular appearance.
- The Supreme Court has held that religious practice in the schools constitutes a violation of the Establishment clause of the First Amendment since public schools cannot promote the practice or ideology of any religion.
- Even if administrators refuse to acknowledge this connection to occult religion, there is the further problem of using hypnosis and dissociative techniques, or other psychotherapeutic methods. Using psychological techniques without the informed consent of the parents constitutes a violation of the Hatch Amendment and is illegal.
- It can be established that there are genuine risks and liabilities for both school and children if teachers, unlicensed as mental health professionals, are involved in administering speculative or unproven therapeutic techniques which may later result in psychiatric problems. This may be considered malpractice.
- Many self-esteem-oriented, drug or alcohol prevention, and sex-education curricula utilize a non-directive decision making process without empirical justification. In fact, evidence suggests these methods have actually produced a rise in such activities.
- The content of many of these materials is likely a violation of students' and parents' constitutional right to privacy.
- Parents should not only be well informed but also closely involved with their children and teachers to make sure such practices are not occurring in the classroom.
- Because of the frequency of incidents, it is recommended that state and local school boards adopt official policy prohibiting the use of these techniques. Having such policy in place may prevent the costly political, emotional, educational, and financial consequences of litigation. This is especially true when the policy is set at the state level, eliminating the necessity of carrying on the same struggle time after time in district after district.
Having researched New Age teaching in the schools thoroughly, Watchman Fellowship has been instrumental in helping parents and other professionals to organize and present this issue to the boards of local school districts around the country.
In Alabama, the issue was taken up at the State Board of Education. The opposition was formidable. The education establishment enlisted administrators, the People for the American Way, the ACLU and teacher organizations. All this, to fight the petition of parents and others to eliminate New Age meditation/hypnosis techniques, and the transpersonal, non-directive, affective, decision making model from sex and drug education courses. In the end, parents' rights over the education of their own children prevailed. After two days of hearings, the State board voted to ban those objectionable teaching techniques, thus establishing a precedent, inspiration, and a model for other parents around the country. It is hoped that this issue of the Expositor will assist parents, teachers, and school administrators in the quest to safeguard the quality of children's education in America.