by Dr. Richard Beall, Transcendental Meditation Magazine, issue 6
11 May 2012
As Head of Maharishi School, people commonly ask me, “What is different about Maharishi School?” We’re a college prep school, so our students learn about quadratic equations, cell mitosis, literary analysis, historical perspective, and all the rest. But what makes learning at Maharishi School unique? In one word, I’d say, “verticality.”
Levels of the Mind
Most of our students have been meditating since they were ten years old, the youngest age to learn the Transcendental Meditation technique. Experiencing deeper levels of the mind is as common to them as brushing their teeth, because they experience refined thinking every day in their TM practice.
From the moment we open our eyes in the morning, our awareness is active and outward, dealing with the demands of the day. Our minds stay incessantly active, until it’s time for sleep. That goes for students as well.
When new students attend our school and learn the TM technique, they’re surprised to discover that beneath the active surface of their minds is a calm, steady, silent field waiting to welcome them. They discover verticality, their mind’s innate ability to dive to deeper levels, to transcend.
The Power of Silence
More than a novel experience, the silence of meditation gives students insight into their own nature, based on a systematic way to explore their inner selves, to tap into deeper resources of creativity, and to center themselves during the turbulence of adolescence.
Ask our students about verticality of the mind and they’ll describe it in their own words. Tenth-grader Queena just arrived from China in January and learned the TM technique a short time later. A month after learning she describes her experience:
“During meditation I feel deep and peaceful. Any problems I had before meditation seem much smaller and afterwards I am much calmer.”
Big Ideas, Deeper Thinking
For decades educators have recognized that there are levels to the learning experience. In 1956 a committee of educators, chaired by Benjamin Bloom, devised a list of educational objectives that ranged from more superficial learning (knowledge and comprehension) to applied values (application) to the so-called higher-order thinking skills: analysis, synthesis, evaluation. To most educators, Bloom’s Taxonomy is now second nature.
Maharishi School Teacher Tom Kepler provides these examples from the study of literature. Learning starts on the surface with understanding the words and concepts of a story or essay. What follows is the question, “Can you apply that understanding to a contemporary situation, or your own life?” That begins the inward direction toward more depth. It requires students to place the new knowledge in a different context. If we ask them about a particular character or plot device (analysis) or to determine what is most important (evaluation), students have to probe even more deeply. This all comes together when students are challenged to write an alternative ending to a novel, or add a new or “lost” chapter (synthesis). This taps all the preceding levels and results in the most powerful and lasting quality of learning.
Fast forward to 2010, when Iowa, the last to set statewide curriculum standards, unveiled the Iowa Core, incorporating not just what to learn, but how to teach most effectively. The Iowa Core emphasizes “Big Ideas”— foundational big-picture understandings produced by higher-order thinking skills.
For Maharishi School teachers, it’s a well-worn path to those Big Ideas. Since the school was founded more than 30 years ago, our teachers have related every topic in every subject to deeper principles of nature’s structure and functioning. This part of our curriculum is called the Science of Creative Intelligence (SCI), including both the study of consciousness and the understanding that beneath the complexity of life lie universal organizing principles. By grasping universal principles, students see deeper connections between their academic subjects, and the relationship of those subjects with themselves. Learning gains depth and relevance.
Here’s an example. One of the simple, universal SCI principles is, “Life is found in layers.” Seems self-evident to most of us. Interestingly, students find that concept emerges across the curriculum: in how a bill becomes a law, in the analysis of literary symbolism, in exploring the levels of atomic particles, or in a math theorem. In each class, we connect the parts of knowledge with an underlying whole, and that whole to the student’s own self.
Vertical thinking becomes a habit of mind that serves them beyond Maharishi School. Alumnus Satya Griggs (Class of 2010) received this feedback from her anthropology professor:
“Your unique insight and holistic approach shows a greater understanding of the world as a whole instead of as separate societies. The connection you made between yourself and these societies show you believe in the summary point you made of the world as one family. It is refreshing seeing students appreciate this subject on a personal level. You have the mind and heart of an anthropologist.”
By the way, Satya also received one of the highest grades in the class on this exam. . . .
Connections: Verticality of Relationships
When students take time to transcend twice a day, and when their classes promote higher-order thinking skills, the effect of that verticality naturally carries into their relationships. Knowing themselves and being centered in their own identity, they have a firm foundation for meaningful, lasting relationships.
As part of the accreditation process as an independent school, we surveyed all our constituent groups. The results showed that 99% of our alumni stay in contact with other alums, as well as with school representatives—an unusually high percentage even for independent schools. Whether they are welcoming new students, or retaining old friendships, our students develop deep relationships that may last a lifetime.
The Maharishi School Difference
Educators today often decry the test-driven demands that make curricula “a mile wide and an inch deep.” They are concerned about the effects of multi-tasking on students’ attention and depth of analysis. They wonder what the long-term effects of social networking will be on lasting relationships. The common element in all three is verticality, depth. That’s the Maharishi School difference.
© Copyright 2012 Maharishi Foundation USA