'Brainy' Cult Lessons in NYC

Candace de Russy

So brain-dead is much of contemporary education that, at first blush, one might be tempted at least to give the benefit of the doubt to a "Brain Education" program in which thousands of New York City public-school students and teachers are participating. Except that this program, which so far has caused the state's taxpayers $400,000, is now alleged to have ties to a cult. Numerous former employees of an organization called Dahn Yoga -- whose founder developed the teachings for Brain Education -- allege the program is controlled by a group that is part of a huge web of interrelated companies that, in the Post's words, "reels people in with lovey-dovey, group-building activities before steadily ratcheting up the pressure" and cons "participants into investing all their time and money in unproven health and healing activities." Moreover, these employees charge that Dahn Yoga's "activities are abusive and grow increasingly devotional over time to the group's founder and spiritual leader, 57-year-old Seung Huen 'Ilchi' Lee." (On the abuse front, note that Dahn Yoga has been sued by the family of Julia Siverls -- a healthy, 41-year-old CUNY professor who died during an endurance hike sponsored by the group. Her family alleged that Siverls had been drugged and made to hike in desert heat with 40 pounds of rocks in her backpack and with little water. Another former Dahn employee who alleged that she was sexually assaulted by Lee settled her case against him.) But how to illustrate  Brain Education at work on the ground in New York? At a Bronx elementary school, for example, students were instructed to say, "I love your Power Brain face," to one another and to rap songs with lyrics like "I love my thalamus." You get the picture. More mad pedagogies and pedagogical scams. And more mad neglect of students who desperately need to learn to read and write, among other tried and true paths to real cerebral empowerment.

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