They do it in Bhutan, and now in Britain, sort of. Ed Halliwell from the Guardian writes:
As faith schooling from various traditions continues to grab headlines, the prospect of a specifically Buddhist education hasn’t been much mooted. School-based practices inspired by Buddhism, on the other hand, are starting to gain momentum. Last weekend, Goldie Hawn was enthusing about the British launch of her meditation in schools programme, while, on a slightly lower key note, mindfulness teaching has already been introduced in several private institutions – Wellington College and Tonbridge School among them. There are also initiatives to introduce meditation in the state sector, under the guidance of psychologists such as Mark Williams in Oxford.
Halliwell goes on to discuss whether meditation stripped of Buddhism is any use:
The risk of presenting meditation purely in “here’s what you get out of it” terms is that it can come to seem like a technique for self-improvement, or self-control, when actually it is about self-letting-go, a deep dissembling from which a new understanding can come. Rather than offering a promise of betterment, or a false confidence based on faith, meditation can be a way of teaching doubt – the kind of creative uncertainty that can be a useful container for learning. By taking a different perspective on experience – watching it mindfully for a while, rather than getting so caught up in it, we can become more attuned to how our attitudes colour our world, and how the way we see things aren’t the way they necessarily are.
I don’t think you’d want to teach schoolchildren any religion, whether or not it’s good for them (and of course opinions differ about this.) Catholic schools and missionary schools teach you and instruct you religiously, but in terms of the material world, it’s the secular education that’s helpful. I think meditation is helpful on its own, but I don’t know how it would work. How about just five minutes’ quiet time, and kids who wanted to pray (silently) could do so, etc.? Halliwell seems more ambitious. Buddhism can be “sold” as a less dogmatic, more-science friendly religion, but when it comes to kids in a classroom, religion is religion. Perhaps it’s the difference of living in a free, secular, and progressive country versus living in the United States and the wariness such ideas bring.
Read more about the Hawn Foundation here.