UBC Graduate Research

MindUp and mindfulness : an optimistic expansion of the mission and vision of the MindUp program through contemplative, moral, and ideological inquiry Regier, Christopher C.


Due to “ the alarming jump in stress, depression, and violence among today’s children and young people” (The Hawn Foundation, Foundation History, para. 1) caused by the modern world which has created “everything from pollution, environmental toxins, noise, information overload [and] the relentless struggle to survive and succeed” (Liu & Blank, 2011, 81), The Hawn Foundation’s mission “to equip children with the social and emotional skills they need to navigate the challenges of the contemporary world in order to lead smarter, healthier, and happier lives (The Hawn Foundation, Mission and Vision, para. 1) is a noble and worthwhile cause. A thorough examination of the MindUp’s website reveals a dependence on the credible research in the field of Social and Emotional Learning. Nevertheless, excluding the media archives, monographs, and articles, nothing explicitly explains to the web browser how The Hawn Foundation interprets the nature of thinking, the mental and physical state of mindfulness, or the moral responsibility it has undertaken to help students cultivate “wellbeing, emotional balance, and resiliency” (The Hawn Foundation, Mission and Vision, para. 2) by having schools foster the skills of “focused attention and nonreactive monitoring of experience from moment to moment without judgement” (The Hawn Foundation, Mission and Vision, para. 2). Moreover, the website does not address any concerns about their program. I argue this paper proceeds on the assumption that that it is the responsibility of the Foundation to unequivocally articulate in their own words the key assumptions and beliefs underlying their curriculum, and, in particular, their understanding of the dynamics of thinking, the mental and physical state of being mindful, MindUp’s moral underpinnings, and any prior allegations against the MindUp’s mission and educational philosophies that have been resolved through democratic discourse. This paper will support the mission of The Hawn Foundation by first explaining what the MindUp program is, and then describing some of its’ successes inside the classroom and research lab. The second section will then provide an explanation of the nature of living a mindful life, address the psychological nature of thinking and its’ inherent dysfunction, and articulate how the two understandings point to the wisdom embedded in the words “know thyself”. The third section of the paper will argue why it is a moral responsibility of schools to teach children to be mindful of aimless thinking of past and future events by first explaining how teaching, schools, and school leadership are moral activities, and then illustrate how The Hawn Foundation infers their moral responsibilities in each of the three categories of education. The final section of the paper will explore how paradigms pose a challenge for notable issues worth addressing in future academic inquiries about the MindUp Program, and conclude with an examination of the concept of change, and how it specifically applies to mindfulness in schools.

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