James Reveley has further argued that school-based mindfulness represents a ‘human enhancement strategy’ to insulate children from pathologies that stem from ‘digital capitalism.’ Mindfulness in schools, he adds, is ‘an exercise in pathology-proofing them in their capacity as the next generation of unpaid digital labourers.’ It trains young people to become responsible for augmenting their own emotional wellbeing and in doing so to secure the well-being of digital capitalism itself.
According to Davies, however, much of the stress experienced by children is actually caused more mundanely by the kinds of testing and performance measurement pressures forced on schools by current policy priorities. ‘The irony of turning schools into therapeutic institutions when they generate so much stress and anxiety seems lost on policy-makers who express concern about children’s mental health,’ he argues.
Mindfulness training, this article argues, is a biopolitical human enhancement strategy. Its goal is to insulate youth from pathologies that stem from digital capitalism’s economisation of attention. I use Bernard Stiegler’s Platonic depiction of the ambiguousness of all attention channelling mechanisms as pharmaka-containing both poison and cure-to suggest that this training is a double-edged sword. Does the inculcation of mindfulness in schoolchildren empower them; or is it merely an exercise in pathology-proofing them in their capacity as the next generation of unpaid digital labourers? The answer, I maintain, depends on whether young people can use the Internet’s political potentialities to mitigate the exploitation of their unpaid online labour time.
The irony of turning schools into therapeutic institutions when they generate so much stress and anxiety seems lost on policy-makers who express concern about children’s mental health. One doesn’t have to subscribe to a belief in ‘neoliberalism’ or ‘individualism’ in order to understand the source of much that makes schoolchildren unhappy-one simply has to look at the relentless exam and inspection schedule they have to follow.