Meditation and Education: Modernizing Learning through Ancient Techniques
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Attention, contemplation and insight on the one side, productivity, acceleration and efficiency on the other. The contemplative slow-paced and the technological fast-paced worlds may seem to be opposites, yet they complement each other. However, cultural indicators suggest that the "more, faster, better" world has gradually gained the upper hand. In the Western world efficiency appears to be key to success. The Oxford English Dictionary defines efficient as "achieving maximum productivity with minimum wasted effort or expense." Benjamin Franklin recognized that "time is money" as early as 1748; however, this maxim appears to become more and more indicative of today's society. In order to keep up with a continuous striving for profit and advancement, society turns towards technology. Today's generation of students has learned to flourish in a technology-driven world. While they have access to an infinite amount of data and produce professional work, they are also extremely distracted, stressed and dependent. In a study on the impact of laptop multitasking on classroom learning, researchers found, “such a lifestyle is intended to increase efficiency; however, there are limitations to how well multiple tasks can be carried out concurrently” (Sana, Weston, Cepeda, 2012). This brings up the question whether students are both physically and mentally present in the classroom. The omnipresence of smartphones, laptops, and iPods has only fueled concerns about the tech-enabled student. The advertising agency re:fuel in New York specializes in the promotion of brands in the college market. According to its latest study, which was published in the June 2013 edition of College Explorer, the average 18 to 34-year-old college student in the U.S. owns seven electronic devices, such as laptops, smartphones and video game consoles. The impact on attention and performance is apparent when multitasking has become a way of life. Many students find it hard to sustain concentration and process information. A potential remedy is a contemplative tradition that dates back to antiquity: meditation. It can increase efficiency through improving concentration, attention and goal-directed action, therefore enhancing academic performance. Although highly useful for students, the implementation of meditation in American universities only moves at a sluggish pace due to its religious connotation. This thesis affirms that meditation practiced in a secular way closes the gap between the fast and the slow world and serves as an additional resource to improve academic performance. While no panacea, meditation can shift the educational experience individually and globally.