New York City Mayor Eric Adams was criticized last week for his new rule that the city’s public schools must lead students in two to five minutes of “mindful breathing” work each day.
Adams announced Tuesday that students all the way from kindergarteners to high school seniors will be required to do the “mindful breathing” exercises during class starting this fall. The idea behind the exercises is to help the kids cope with stress.
At a press conference Tuesday, Adams called the breathing exercises a “game changer.”
“Thousands of years ago, other cultures were learning how to breathe,” Adams said. “We have never been taught … We think that it’s just, air goes through your nostrils and you move. No, there’s a science to breathing.”
Critics pointed out that New York’s public schools are struggling with chronic absenteeism and falling grades, especially since the pandemic.
“The mayor should save his oxygen for the real crisis in our schools — our children are not being taught how to read, if they’re even showing up to class at all,” wrote Tim Hoefer, president and CEO of the Empire Center for Public Policy, in the New York Post.
“Students aren’t learning basic functions, if they’re even showing up at all. Kids learn to breathe whether they’re in a classroom or not. Math and literacy are not so instinctual. Let’s focus on the fundamentals and get butts back into seats. Then we can all collectively take a deep sigh of relief,” Hoefer wrote.
Kayleigh McEnany, who served as White House press secretary during the Trump administration, called Adams’ “mindful breathing” rule a “pet project” and said she is skeptical it will solve the violence problem in schools.
“I just can’t get on board,” McEnany said Wednesday on Fox News. “I somehow made it through many academic institutions without learning about breathing. I just think this is ridiculous. I think it comes from Mayor Adams having a pet project. Apparently he showed up for the debate, and he was doing his breathing and he was calm, and his opponents looked at him, according to the New York Post and said, ‘We can’t beat that guy. He’s too calm.'”
“It may work for some. Absolutely. I’m not dismissing that. I just don’t think it belongs in schools where we’re talking about reading and math,” McEnany said. “If you think the violence in our schools is going to be stopped from breathing, good luck, Mayor Adams.”
Others pointed out that while “mindful breathing” could have a “real impact” for students, the mayor has proposed cutting $5 million from a separate mental health initiative in high schools.
“That’s certainly not a replacement for other really critical programs and services that are at risk of being discontinued,” said Dawn Yuster, director of the School Justice Project at Advocates for Children.
Adams’ announcement came less than a week after new national data showed that math and reading scores have dipped to their lowest level in decades, according to data from the National Center for Education Statistics, also known as the Nation’s Report Card.
Meanwhile, public schools across the country have seen an exodus of students since the pandemic as many parents became frustrated with pandemic restrictions, learning loss, and curriculum content they found inappropriate.