Our Spring 2016 issue’s debate on whether mindfulness should be taught in public schools, with responses from Saki Santorelli and Candy Gunther-Brown, sparked a lot of conversation on our website and Facebook page. Below, Tricycle readers weigh in on the question: “Does mindfulness belong in public schools as an educational tool, or does it violate the separation of church and state?”

The discussion doesn’t address a few important issues. First, mindfulness education in the United States almost invariably includes a compassion or lovingkindness component that is based on Buddhist metta practice. The standard form of metta practice is based on a specifically Buddhist understanding of what compassion means. One example of this is the public school curriculum developed by the Center for Healthy Minds at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. Second, Dr. Santorelli’s own MBSR teacher training program requires an extended silent meditation retreat. Those retreats are offered only at Buddhist or Buddhist-trained centers. If public school mindfulness teachers are required to attend training at Buddhist institutions to get certification, shouldn’t that set off alarms about separation of church and state issues?

–Len Moskowitz
Teaneck, NJ

I fully agree with the separation of church and state, but to which church does mindfulness belong? I would think of mindfulness, in the Western sense of the word, as entirely secular.

–Jim Pratt
Guelph, Ontario

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