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Christians Object to ‘Whole Mind’ Teaching Methods

November 3, 1986

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) _ A method of visualizing success is being tested in 16 Minnesota schools to help students concentrate and reduce anxiety, but several conservative Christians object that it smacks of Eastern religious influences.

The Whole Mind Learning project was launched by the non-profit Continuum Center and is financed largely by First Bank Minneapolis, which has donated $45,000.

″It’s a very innocent type of program,″ said Wayne Jennings, who coordinates teacher training for the St. Paul school district.

″This project is not about the notion of mind control and religious practices,″ said Michael LaBrosse, a First Bank executive and a Continuum Center board member. ″First Bank wouldn’t get near a project like that.″

Athletes have used the method to reduce anxiety before competition for years.

According to Whole Mind proponents, students are asked to visualize situations they might never have seen or experienced. For example, they are asked to imagine what it would be like to earn an A on a math test.

Whole Mind strategies generally complement traditional teaching techniques and don’t replace them.

The Continuum Center began providing training in the technique to more than 300 Minnesota teachers at 16 schools last winter.

Seven St. Paul couples petitioned their school board last summer to ban Whole Mind Learning until it could be studied further. But the board agreed last month to pay $9,000 to expand teacher training in the project in its schools.

One of those complaining was the Rev. Patrick Misener, who likened Whole Mind Learning to yoga, which had its origins in Hinduism and has gained popularity in the West.

″I don’t want my children doing a relaxation technique that stems from a religion when they won’t let my children pray, which stems from a religion,″ Misener said.

He said his concern is based largely on hand-outs teachers received at Hancock Elementary School, which his three children attend. He has not observed a classroom in which Whole Mind methods were being used.

″To me, the bottom line is this,″ he said. ″Why do they need to go on these ‘little trips’ in education?″

St. Paul educators have defended the progam.

Fifth-grade teacher Mary Griffiths did an excercise with her students last year before a creative writing session. ″I had some of the best creative writing I had ever seen,″ she said.

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