Life Style

School: mindfulness meditation accused of sectarian drift



Sit down, breathe, pay attention to the present moment. For the past ten years, mindfulness meditation (MPC) has been used in some schools to improve the classroom atmosphere and promote student concentration. Faced with a generalized loss of attention, the practice even arouses a certain enthusiasm. Today, however, it is singled out by several associations.

→ MAINTENANCE. Should we practice meditation at school to calm children down?

On January 18, the League for Human Rights (LDH) sent an open letter to Jean-Michel Blanquer, co-signed by teacher unions (FSU and Unsa Education) and the federation of parents of FCPE students, for ask him to ” end “ to experiments and “denied official entry to school” of a technique proposed by a “esoteric think tank” combining “very controversial movements like anthroposophy”.

In June 2021, the LDH had already alerted about this practice, after the proposal of LREM deputy Gaël Le Bohec, supported by personalities such as psychiatrist Christophe André, to experiment with it on a large scale.

No fixed frame

Mindfulness meditation isa technique labeled by the Mind and Life Institute and relayed to us by Initiative Mindfulness Francerecalls the president of the LDH. It is this private structure, weighing billions of dollars, which is lobbying to enter the school. » Malik Salemkour talks about “risks of sectarian aberrations” and “undermining secularism” through “a practice which claims to be secular but which is of Buddhist inspiration”.

→ ANALYSIS. Secularism at school: new figures and an alarming survey

The Ministry of Education took the alert seriously and announced that it “didn’t encourage” this meditation “nor was setting up experimentation”. Jean-Michel Blanquer’s services note that “These practices have been deployed for several years” with “more and more numerous and disparate interventions by associations without a fixed framework”. The ministry evokes a risk of“ascending” on minors and now intends to carry out “systematic control”for“ensure compliance with the principles of public service”.

Independent assessments

Christian Gravel, president of the Interministerial Mission for Vigilance and the Fight against Sectarian Aberrations (Miviludes), wants to be much less alarmist. “We actually received around 20 reports and requests for information between 2018 and 2020, but these were adults, he indicates. We are currently taking stock with national education to check if there have been any abuses at school, but we do not yet have any figures. »

He reminds us that mindfulness meditation “has demonstrated, through a number of scientific studies, its benefits when it is well accompanied”but recognizes that, “As with all disciplines in the field of well-being and personal development, it can be exploited by sectarian entrepreneurs”.

It also specifies that it can “prove problematic for people with severe mental disorders” but does not see this as an attack on secularism. “If meditation is historically rooted in a Hindu and Buddhist religious tradition, mindfulness meditation, as it has been theorized, makes no reference to it”, he says.

According to the LDH, nearly 23,000 students have followed mindfulness meditation sessions in 425 public and private establishments without there always being “a control of the ministry”, orsame “the express consent of the parents”. Rue de Grenelle, it is recognized that informing families depends primarily on the “internal kitchen” of each establishment.

Gaël Le Bohec assures us that the objective of his proposal was to “coordinating disparate practices” and would now like the Peace program (1), applied in several establishments, to be “reviewed by independent scientists“.

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“Teachers should be trained and offer these sessions themselves”

Father Pascal Sevez
Director of the Center for Ignatian Pedagogical Studies

“In Catholic teaching, we can find elements of exercises that resemble mindfulness meditation during times of interiority or moments that allow children to listen to their emotions. For us, it is less a tool to calm the students than a way of praying with the body. I can understand the concern of some parents or teachers since it is a method that works on behavior. To avoid abuses, I think teachers should be trained and offer these sessions themselves. »

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