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[Susan notes: An article about a Massachusetts principal who has introduced yoga to reduce student stress provoked a lot of letters. I didn't post the article because my focus tends to be with the Idaho scribe. It isn't that I am not sympathetic to the incredible stress put on children of the affluent; I just have to martial my time. But I thought these letters were quite interesting.]

Published in New York Times

To the editor

Re “Less Homework, More Yoga, From a Principal Who Hates Stress” (news article, Oct. 29):

The principal of Needham (Mass.) High School is doing an incredible thing by offering stress reduction opportunities for his students. Not only is he instructing them how to manage their level of stress now, he is instilling in them the resources and abilities that will be of utmost importance to them in the future.

Our society is increasingly driven by measures of performance that have created a level of unprecedented stress. Medically, this has been linked to the steep rise in many chronic health conditions like cardiovascular disease, diabetes, obesity, insomnia and depression.

The impact of stress on the health care system has been estimated in the hundreds of billions of dollars and will continue to grow unless we make societal changes in the way we live our daily lives. The principal of Needham High School, Paul Richards, has begun this process while his students are still in their formative years and should be congratulated for his efforts.

Kurt Beil

Portland, Ore., Oct. 30, 2007


To the Editor:

As a former teacher and a parent of two university graduates, I applaud Paul Richards’s recognition of stressed-out high schoolers today. But I disagree with the parent who claimed that the job of high school, especially in an affluent community with college-bound students, is to learn “to prepare for the beginning of life.”

Sadly, in our competitive society, the purpose of high school often is to serve as a steppingstone to the “right” university. The stress of building the perfect high school portfolio to submit to the A-list of colleges may come from parents or from students themselves.

Yoga is good, but efforts to achieve academic excellence, as well as outstanding recognition in sports, community contributions, extracurricular activities, leadership qualities and the perfect essay, means pursuing life with the goal of getting into that A-list college. Unfortunately, an occasional yoga class, while healthy, is only a Band-Aid being applied to a broken leg.

Marilyn Damon Diamond

San Francisco, Oct. 29, 2007


To the Editor:

There is a great deal of discussion in education circles regarding the overwhelming school stress and anxiety kids are experiencing at every grade level. It is at an epidemic level in suburban communities, where the quest to get into the right college permeates every waking moment as they attempt to mold themselves into the image and likeness of what they perceive colleges expect. Passing tests and “academic rigor” have replaced thoughtful and purposeful learning.

How refreshing to read about Paul Richards in Needham, Mass., who is going beyond discussion and taking steps to restore some sanity to kids’ lives and allowing them a moment to take a breath. Bob Sweeney

Ossining, N.Y., Oct. 29, 2007


To the Editor:

While I laud principals who look out for the well-being of their relatively well-off, overscheduled students, let’s not forget the students from poorer neighborhoods whose stresses develop from more basic causes, like poverty, violence and discrimination.

Hank Dart

Hailey, Idaho, Oct. 29, 2007

multiple authors

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