New Age Religious Practices in the Classroom

The piece that follows is an introduction to New Age in the classroom.  Parents are encouraged to visit the websites listed below and read the recommended books for further and more in-depth information.


A Nation At Risk was published in 1983, bringing the state of education in America to the forefront of public debate.  Since then, with the passing of Goals 2000, HR 6 (IASA of 1994) and The School to Work Opportunities Act (STWOA), and the implementation thereof, parents have begun to ask questions like "Where are the academics?"  Parents look back at their own education and look at the money that is currently being put out for this new educational system and ask, "The old way worked, so why do we need a new education system?"

The reply that parents have received to the latter inquiry generally focuses on Sputnik, clocks, and seat time, that while "the old education system was doing a good job of educating children, a new system is needed to meet the needs of the future"; that we have passed from the "industrial age" to the "information age" and we must adjust our education system to compensate.  That the old education system (referred to as the Taylorian education system) was set up to produce workers on a factory assembly line, we are told; the new system will focus on the "information age" – a rapidly and constantly changing age of technology in which people will change jobs many times and must be able to work in different capacities.

Sounds logical enough if you focus on Sputnik, clocks, and seat time.  But let's change that focus.  What was taught to children in the so-called Taylorian schools?  The answer, of course, is academic rigor [1].  Suddenly the focus on Sputnik, clocks, and seat time becomes subordinate to what the children learned in those schools.  And suddenly the explanation as to why we need to move to this new "information age" school that focuses not on academics but on process and wanted behaviors, on globalism, radical environmentalism, acceptance of all life styles, multicultural diversity, gender equity, self-esteem, cooperative and collaborative learning, etc, doesn't hold up to scrutiny which brings us back, again, to the question of "why do we need this new education system?"

That answer came, in part, in the form of a curriculum in-service seminar on self-esteem being sponsored by District 81 and a Spokane orthodontist in October, 1995.  This seminar presented psychotherapist Jack Canfield.  In his book, Self-Esteem In the Classroom, A Curriculum Guide, Canfield quotes Dr Wayne Dyer,

Once you see a child's self-image begin to improve, you will see significant gains in achievement areas, but even more important you will see a child who is beginning to enjoy life more.

Well, that doesn't sound so bad – so what's the problem?  On page 7, Mr Canfield states,

Finally, a student must also learn to value and trust her subconscious world which manifests itself through intuition, imagination, dreams, daydreams and fantasy.  Not only have we failed to develop the imaginal capacity in children through the proper use of guided imagery and fantasy, we have actually retarded its development...

Guided imagery, guided fantasy?  What are we talking about here?  Mr Canfield explains, also on page 7:

Ask them to close their eyes and to imagine (i.e., see inside their head as if it were actually happening) ...

You have just read the introductory to guided imagery/fantasy.  The curriculum guide goes on to instruct the teacher on how to introduce and use guided imagery/fantasy, and on the benefits of using it.  In his book, 101 Ways to Develop Student Self-Esteem and Responsibility, Vol I, Canfield states,

Guided Imagery is a very powerful psychological tool....

When students are participating in a guided imagery experience, they are in an altered state of consciousness.  Their brain wave activity is slowed down.  They are highly relaxed.

In an article entitled Education in the New Age, published in the February, 1978, issue of the New Age journal [2], Jack Canfield states,

If you're teaching in public school, don't call it meditation, call it 'centering.'

Are we to gather that parents just wouldn't understand were these techniques called by their real names?  Are these people afraid that parents wouldn't approve were they to know the truth?

Parents need to understand that guided imagery and guided fantasy use techniques that place children in altered states of consciousness and amount to psychotherapy and psycho hypnosis in the classroom, by teachers neither trained nor licensed to use these powerful psychological tools, begging the question of medical malpractice.  Recently, an Eastern Washington elementary teacher took his class through a guided fantasy outlined in a teacher's guide while his students were lying on the floor in a darkened classroom.  He became concerned when he had difficulty bringing one of his students back to full consciousness.  Other children have had involuntary flashbacks while in a conscious state.  The result of improper use of these techniques can be very detrimental to children.  Psychotherapists are medically trained and licensed to use these procedures, teachers are not.  Parents also need to know that children in altered states of consciousness are very open to suggestion.

Other terms used relative to these techniques that parents should be aware of are alpha state, altered state of consciousness, dream wanderings, intuitive thinking, imagery, meditation, right brain tapping, sanctified imagination, creative imagery, concentrating our energies, relaxation exercises, contacting one's higher self, self-esteem, psycho physiological exercise, and guardian spirits.

By whatever name they are called, these techniques are part of a theology (religion) known as New Age.  The underlying premise of New Age theology has been recognized by the courts as a religion, making any use of the techniques and theology relevant thereto illegal in the classroom in accordance with Article IX, Section 4, of the Washington State Constitution,

All schools maintained or supported wholly or in part by the public funds shall be forever free from sectarian control or influence.

and Article I, Section 11, of the Washington State Constitution,

No public money or property shall be appropriated for or applied to any religious worship, exercise, or instruction, or the support of any religious establishment....

What are the tenets of New Age theology?  They believe ....

1)     rejection of absolute reality;

2)     impersonalism [3]of God and man;

3)     nature is God;

4)     evolution;

5)     man is God;

6)     we create our own reality; and

7)     the need to achieve a conscious union of the god of nature. [4]

In accordance with their religion, they believe in multicultural diversity, higher order thinking skills attained by expansion of the mind into the psychic realm, that right and wrong are a matter of perception (values clarification in the form of critical thinking/problem solving/decision making), environmentalism, holistic education (teaching to the whole child through "brain-based teaching"), cooperative and collaborative learning as a way of the child becoming part of the harmonious global community in which all strive for the collective purpose, and self-esteem through the child finding his "inner" and "higher self" – collectively known as self-divination, etc.  If you think this sounds like something out of the 60's and the hippy generation, know that the New Age movement found audience in America with the hippy generation.

In the New Age book, The Aquarian Conspiracy, author Marilyn Ferguson, on page 280-281, states,

You can only have a new society, the visionaries have said, if you change the education of the younger generation.  Yet the new society itself is the necessary force for change in education. ...

Of the Aquarian Conspirators surveyed, more were involved in education than in any other single category of work.  They were teachers, administrators, policymakers, educational psychologists. ...

There are heroes in education, as there have always been heroes, trying to transcend the limits of the old structure; but their efforts are too often thwarted by peers, administrators, parents.  Mario Fantini, former Ford consultant on education, now at the State University of New York, said bluntly, 'The psychology of becoming [5] has to be smuggled into the schools.'

On page 289-291, Ferguson lays out the "new paradigm of learning" versus the "old paradigm" (representative of the traditional education system).  The "new paradigm" looks amazingly like those being published by school districts and education reform proponents all across the United States with the possible exception of the Eastern Orthodox practices (guided imagery, centering, dream journals, etc).  The new paradigm is known as the transformational paradigm [6].

Dr S Alan Cohen, Professor Emeritus, University of San Francisco and Institute for Effective Instruction, had this to say in the foreword of the Fall 1995 issue of Outcomes, pages 9-10:

When OBE educators documented their outcomes, they found themselves in the predicament of the naked emperor.  Everyone could now see the school's outcomes for what they were – light on basics, heavy on muddled ambiguities.  At our institute we call these ambiguities FUZZIES.  In his monograph, Dr Manno associates these fuzzies with Transformational OBE's "Aquarian" perspective... [7]

Personally I admit to these Aquarian values...

...for decades educators have been harboring Aquarian outcomes that fundamentalists trace to the liberal Devil.  Only when OBE forced educators to articulate them did they become available targets.

We find the tenets of the New Age movement heavily infused in material being published regarding education reform and are, in fact, evident in many of the exit outcomes at the local and state levels.  The why and wherefore of this is explained in Systems Thinking.

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[1]   Actually, while the old system is referred to, disparagingly, as the Taylorian system of education, the old system of education, pre-1930, was actually a classical educational system intended to stimulate and discipline the intellect of the child. [Back]

[2]   This article also references such notables as Dr William Glasser, Dr Carl Rogers, Dr George Lozanov, Dr Roberto Assagioli, Jean Houston, Sidney Simon, and Louis Raths – who worked with both Hilda Taba and Sidney Simon. [Back]

[3]   Unprejudiced, impartial. [Back]

[4]   Basic Principles of New Age Thought; Dr John Eidsmoe; New Leaf Press; 1991; pps 27, 28.  A Concise Dictionary of Cults & Religions, William Watson, Moody Press; 1991; p 162; lists these same tenets as (1) all is one (monism); (2) all is God (pantheism); (3) "we are all divine" (4) we have lived and will live many lifetimes (reincarnation), (5) we create our own reality, decide our own truth; (6) all religions are true (universalism); and (7) a new world order is coming. [Back]

[5]   "The psychology of becoming" refers to Third Force psychology, specifically the human potential movement of which Carl Rogers was a leading advocate. [Back]

[6]   Traditional education deals with the cognitive domain; transitional education brings in the affective domain; transformational education deals with the psychomotor domain through cognitive dissonance.  See Third Force Psychology in the Classroom.  A society that becomes transformational is known as a dialectic society.  Dialectic societies based on values emanating from within self (humanist) have, historically, failed. [Back]

[7]   Undoubtedly referring to Outcome-Based Education; Miracle Cure or Plague?; Manno, Bruno V.; Indianapolis, IN: Hudson Institute; Hudson Briefing Paper; No. 165; June 1994. [Back]

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Recommended reading:

Basic Principles of New Age Thought; Dr John Eidsmoe; Green Forest, AR: New Leaf Press; 1991.

Your Child and the Occult; Like Lambs to the Slaughter; Johanna Michaelsen; Eugene, OR: Harvest House Publishers; 1977.

The Beautiful Side of Evil; Johanna Michaelsen; Eugene, OR: Harvest House Publishers; 1975.

Under the Spell of Mother Earth; Berit Kjos; Wheaton, IL: SP Publications, Inc; 1977.

Brave New Schools; Berit Kjos; Eugene, OR: Harvest House Publishers; 1995.

Your Child and the New Age; Berit Kjos; Wheaton, IL: SP Publications; Inc; 1990.

Straight Answers on the New Age; Bob Larson; Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, Inc; 1989.

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Recommended web sites:

Berit Kjos

Visualization; An Occult Religious Practice (Christian Research Ministries)