During New York City’s last week of school, five new religious school holidays were announced, as well as a mandatory daily “mindful breathing” program to begin next year.
On Monday, Mayor Eric Adams announced the city would officially recognize Diwali, India’s biggest holiday celebrating the symbolic victory of light over darkness, as a school holiday. This year the holiday falls on Sunday, Nov. 12, and won’t impact the fall semester.
For the 2023-24 school year, the Department of Education says four new days will be taken off, including April 1, the day after Easter, April 29 and 30, the two days of Passover, and June 17 for Eid, according to ABC 7.
Then on Tuesday, the mayor announced that all public schools “will soon be required to facilitate two-to-five minutes of mindful breathing practices in the classroom every day.”
The breathing exercises aim to improve mental health and well-being of the students to help them perform better in and out of the classrooms.
“Breathing calms your nervous system,” claimed Adams, who practices yoga. “It helps to center us and help us regain our sense of balance and focus. It’s an invaluable, low-cost tool that is proven to improve mental health and wellbeing.”
But some say the new program betrays misplaced priorities.
“It sure would be nice if Mayor Eric Adams focused less on educational bells and whistles, and more on ensuring city children learn their reading, writing and ’rithmatic,” The New York Post editorial board wrote on Tuesday, in a column headlined, “Take a deep breath, Mr. Mayor, and put the three Rs ahead of yoga.”
The editorial also noted the poor performance of students and chronic absenteeism plaguing NYC schools, suggesting more is needed than “yoga-certified breathing lessons.”
“Some of Adams’ personally-inspired agenda is well-focused on the system’s real problems, such as his insistence on identifying and addressing dyslexia. We’re beyond overjoyed at [DOE] Chancellor David Banks’ emphasis on centering early-reading instruction on phonics, as well,” the editorial board acknowledged.
“But yoga instruction and vegan meals, not so much. Look: The DOE’s now spending more than $33,000 per student, heading toward $41,000 within a few years. Yet it’s barely begun to reverse the drastic learning loss from the COVID lockdowns.”