Monetization of Mindfulness? / by Jack Viere

“Throughout the twentieth century, particularly after the Second World War, we had a slow-moving river. Stability, continuity, and maintaining the status quo defined our culture, and progress was carefully controlled. This environment influenced both education and technology” (Thomas and Brown, 39).

I don’t agree with this claim.

I think that the lack of stability, continuity, and maintaining the status quo continually influences education and technology.

I do agree that there’s more to education than teaching someone how to fish, so to speak.

Relevantly adapting to change in an education setting takes mindfulness, a broader awareness, of “what will come next” (Thomas and Brown, 43).

But thinking about teaching someone how to fish brings up a common discussion: what is the purpose of education? Is education a way to learn a new trade, a means to an end, so to speak? Or is education valuable on its own?

“To most people, [reading Harry Potter] doesn’t sound very much like ‘real’ learning” (Thomas and Brown, 44). Langer’s seven pervasive myths of education portrays what “real” learning might look like.

Yes. If the purpose of education is to eventually get a job, then it’s harder to explain how Harry Potter is going to help achieve that goal.

Yes. If the purpose of education is to do education (whatever that means), then reading Harry Potter instead of the “classics” seems more like “fake” than “real” learning.

If the problem is educating more effectively in a “constantly changing world,” and the answer is play and imagination, then the trouble is convincing students, parents, and policymakers to buy into this alternative learning style (Thomas and Brown, 48).

The college student has to weigh whether or not a course that fosters play and imagination is going to be worth her tuition. (And in an ideal world, if she adopts the purpose of education to mean that education is valuable in its own right, then she has to weigh whether or not this course visibly increases her education).

The parents have to either pay tuition (at any age level), accept the value in play and imagination (if this was integrated in the public school system), or both. That may be difficult to sell if parents want “the best” for their children, especially if that means well-being, i.e., job security. Showing the connection between Harry Potter and a job opportunity might be difficult.

The policymakers have to be convinced and convince politicians (and decision makers at every level) that play and imagination is worth funding. Quantifying a mode of education that minimizes the use of tests could also be difficult.

I think that quantifying how play and imagination lead to problem solving skills in a workplace setting is a viable option that fits in “education as a means to an end” purpose. “Mindfulness creates a rich awareness of discriminatory detail” (Langer, 23). Perhaps this discriminatory detail is a visible problem solving skill that finds worth in a workplace setting.

But what is mindfulness’ purpose?

If the purpose of mindfulness is to teach sideways learning, then mindfulness is just another means to an end.

If the purpose of mindfulness is to just increase awareness of discriminatory detail, then mindfulness might have an invaluable quality that teachers and employers may find useful.  



(At the end of the day, the increase in use of “mindfulness” is just one example of cultural appropriation that exists in a larger West meets East phenomenon, c.f. yoga. Mindfulness, like education, will never be non-teleological).