Russell Simmons visits “Doc” Rutherford’s Ideal Academy Public Charter School (K-12) in Washington, D.C.

Posted by: Russell Simmons 5/17/2010 | 8,821 Views

By Russell Simmons
I just had a very blissful experience. Last Thursday, I meditated with 150 students at the Ideal Academy Public Charter School (K-12) in the heart of downtown Washington, D.C. I experienced silence—not just an absence of outer noise—but a deep “inner silence” that activates the brain, solves problems, awakens self-confidence, removes stress, and promotes health.

I believe the experience of silence is the birthright of every human being. But more than that, it is an absolute necessity to survive—much less succeed—in today’s insane world. Yet so few people ever achieve it—particularly young people.

Instead, a kid lives in a relentless state of pounding noise and stimulation. Louder and louder and faster and faster. Do we really think that such stressed-out, wigged-out, crazy-minded kids are ready to learn algebra or history?

They aren’t ready—and they don’t learn.

But it’s a different story at the Ideal Academy—and in hundreds of other innovative, highly successful schools in the US and around the world. These schools have implemented what they call “Quiet Time.” They have set aside two 10- to 15-minute blocks at the beginning and end of each school day for kids to settle down into their own quietness—as a preparation to learn.

During Quiet Time, like a miracle, the frenzy at schools stops. At Ideal Academy, you can walk the halls and hear a pin drop. Quiet Time is mandatory at Ideal, but what a student does is voluntary. A student can read silently or just sit still, but most everyone chooses to meditate—to practice Transcendental Meditation. Why? Because the word is out—and the research is in—that this meditation allows a student to easily experience, each and every time, stillness and silence. And the best part of it that there is no philosophy or belief required to experience your own inner silence.

When I visited Ideal Academy, I met with the principal, Dr. George “Doc” Rutherford, a great man who has been an educator and principal of schools in the toughest areas of the District of Columbia for over 46 years. Doc says that Quiet Time is the only thing that has worked to improve academic performance in his schools. He says it has transformed the lives of his students and created a rare climate of calm that is conducive to learning. After Quiet Time, teachers say their students are more alert and engaged. Parents say their kids are easier to get along with at home. And students say they feel less anger, less stressed, even happier.

But talk is talk—the proof of Quiet Time is in the research. Decades of studies conducted at top medical schools and universities have found great benefits for education. Grades and test scores go up, as do graduation rates. Stress levels, behavioral problems and drug and alcohol abuse go down, as do suspensions and expulsions.

Two weeks ago, I wrote a blog on the work of the “Bent on Learning” foundation to bring yoga to students in the New York City schools, many of which have no gym classes, much less gym teachers. (Can you imagine sitting at your desk in class for seven hours, with just 15 minutes for lunch, and no break for exercise? No wonder schools breed so much stress.) For no cost to the schools, and requiring only that the kids move their desks to the side of the room for a few minutes a day, thousands of students get to practice yoga, relieve their stress, and get happier doing it.

If we want our kids to learn properly and to live healthy and be successful, they need holistic development. Kids need to eat right. They need physical exercise and they need mental exercise—they need mental resilience—they need to meditate.

I left Doc’s school feeling inspired and determined to do what I can do to bring Quiet Time to as many kids as possible. But I also left quite frustrated. How can there only be hundreds of schools with Quiet Time and not hundreds of thousands worldwide? It’s cruel and inhumane that so few kids have access to such simple, effective tools for heath and success.

As a board member of the David Lynch Foundation, I am working to change that. The Foundation has been instrumental in helping to bring Quiet Time to hundreds of thousands of students, and we are doing everything we can to inspire more. In his book, “Catching the Big Fish,” David says, “Quiet Time is not a luxury. For kids who are growing up in a stressful, frightening, crisis-ridden, violent world, it is a necessity.”

I appreciate everything David is doing with his Foundation, but after visiting Doc’s school, I would make David’s words even stronger. To me, it is criminal that Quiet Time is not in more schools. Just as it would be a crime to withhold a safe medicine that could prevent and treat a terrible disease, it is criminal to withhold from kids a safe antidote like Quiet Time that we know can prevent the terrible stresses that destroy the lives of millions of kids and their families.

For their sake, it’s time not to sit back and be silent. It is time to act; it’s time to be bold.

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One Response to “Russell Simmons visits “Doc” Rutherford’s Ideal Academy Public Charter School (K-12) in Washington, D.C.”

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