The week’s column at The Daily Caller:
The awkward choices confronting many American denominations help reveal the same thing as do our nationwide struggles for adequate teaching and learning. Americans have formed an unintentional cultural conspiracy against healthy bodily discipline — a skillful practice that, if popularized and made habitual at an early age, can revolutionize the way we educate ourselves and our children.
In just a generation or two — a blip on the timeline of civilizations — such an approach would reap big benefits at the level of our entire civilization. We have known for years that physical exertion has positive emotional consequences. We also now know, thanks to researchers at the University of Illinois, that children’s physical exercise contributes significantly to increasing the size and interactivity of the parts of their brain that facilitate complex thinking. Our current attitude toward physical education, however, expresses some of the same cultural defeatism which constantly reinforces our sense that strict discipline of kids is bad, impossible or both. There’s nothing wrong with running, jumping and playing sports, but there’s plenty wrong with leaving it there.
At the heart of healthy physical discipline is an emphasis on stillness as well as motion, including the “active rest” of mind and body. Mere exercise — whether in the gym or on the field — doesn’t teach the critical physical skill of adjusting one’s consciousness to tune out the din of the world. It certainly doesn’t foster a reflective experience of the rewards that practice can bring.