There is an interesting phenomenon sweeping the classrooms of America (and the argument section of Facebook*. A toy called the Fidget Spinner claims to help kids with ADHD, ADD, Anxiety, and even Autism concentrate and behave in school. They are loved by some kids and parents, hated by some teachers, reviled by middle aged columnists, and in my opinion a palliative way of relieving symptoms of a larger issue: sedentary education.
One shift most of my Alexander Technique students have to make is that the body is not meant to be stiff or still for long periods of time (such as when typing on a computer or even lying on a couch) but is built for being a little unstable and dynamic--this is the shift from the idea of 'posture' to the idea of 'poise'. Young children are never still unless they are passed out. They are always moving, always shifting, always curious. Until they hit school. At which point, in order to provide discipline and concentration on mental pursuits, they are constrained to stillness and silence for hours on end with small breaks for physical activity and interaction (something that carries over to many of our working lives). As detailed in Daniel Kahnman's 'Thinking Fast And Slow', this type of concentration is very taxing on both brain and body, and the whole system craves movement to balance it out and break up patterns of tension that come into the body as a result. Instead, children are forced to sit still. Is it a wonder they crave some form of movement, even as small as the motion of a finger spinner? With some reflection, it is easy to see that that this is the latest manifestation of a long lasting tradition of ways to fight this repressive stillness--when I was in school, I would doodle constantly (at some point, I threw way whole notebooks of X-Wings and Tie Fighters) or lightly drum my fingers on my desk, which would drive my teachers crazy much like the spinners do now.
There is a lot to this. I am certainly not claiming that any of the above conditions are caused by this method of education (or denying their existence), but I do think they are exacerbated by it along with causing potential physical issues such as back and shoulder pain. One of the joys of my work with adults is watching them wake up mentally, emotionally, and energetically as we introduce ways to incorporate more movement and physical ease into their lives; and there is a lot of thought that movement actually aids mental activity rather than constraining it. Along with the wonderful benefits of education (I am the son of a teacher) many people carry the harmful habits of over-stiffening and over concentrating through to adulthood. Perhaps rather than arguing about whether a toy is either the savior or downfall of western society, we should be examining the accepted social structure that makes it an issue in the first place.
And now for the most terrifying words on the internet: what do you think?
*Also known as Facebook.
Thoughts on what is going on in the work and the world right now. Many posts to come.