Transcendental Meditation, Natural Law fuel controversy
A controversial Cabarrus County charter school that plans to teach Transcendental Meditation and Natural Law Curriculum when it opens this fall must remove all religion from its curriculum or lose its charter.
That was the message Thursday from the N.C. Charter School Advisory Board to the leaders of the Carolina International School.
The school has been challenged in recent months by local residents who believe its so-called Natural Law Curriculum and emphasis on meditation are rooted in Hinduism, and therefore don’t belong in a public school. Carolina International would be the first charter school in Cabarrus County.
At a meeting Thursday in Raleigh, the 15-member charter school advisory board asked the new school to work with the board to remove religion from its plans.
Leaders of the Carolina International, however, say the school has nothing to do with religion.
“We never would have undertaken a charter-school application process if we felt in any way that these programs were religious in content,” said Richard Beall, the school’s director.
TM and Natural Law Curriculum are part of Consciousness-Based Education, or CBE, founded by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, known to many from his friendship with the Beatles.
Michael Fedewa, chairman of the charter school advisory committee, said it’s too early to tell how much of the curriculum will need to be cut to keep the charter.
“TM, in my opinion, has got to be addressed. Clearly, through certain ceremonies and certain results, it clearly has what one could logically perceive to be religious in connotation,” he said, as does the Natural Law Curriculum.
The Charter School Advisory Committee recommends schools to the N.C. Board of Education, which approves the charters. Carolina International received its charter in January.
The advisory board initially didn’t pay much attention to TM or the Natural Law Curriculum, Fedewa said. They were impressed by the school’s business model, its rigorous academic standards and multicultural environment.
Beall said he remains committed to his students and teachers. But, he added, “if the end result is something that doesn’t really contribute in a significant way to our overall educational goals, then it may not be worth continuing.”
More than 550 students are registered for 320 seats in the school, Beall said. The school plans to open with grades K-7 and will add a grade each year to become K-12.
“Natural Law is terrific. I know about TM and it’s not different from any other meditation,” said Eloise Koskinen of southwest Charlotte, whose three grandchildren are on the school’s waiting list.
Beverly Henley of Cabarrus County, a vocal opponent to Beall’s school, called Thursday’s meeting “a positive thing.”
“It’s been our thought all along that it’s a definite violation of church and state. It’s just so in-your-face.”