As if the educational system needed to amplify its absence of rationality, make way for the rising star in mind-science snake oil: EmoTrance. Children are evidently prime targets for promoters of this, the latest ‘energy healing’ marketing blitz–and schools around the world could soon be opening their doors to let them in.
Exhibit A comes to us from across the pond, as reported in this Times Higher Education article. Haydon School in Pinner, Middlesex, is host to the EmoTrance Project, in which 19 students are being trained in “emotional transformation.” What’s the nature of this “transformation” you ask? Let me clear that up — the kids are being taught how to manipulate their human energy fields to control emotional disturbances arising from disruptions in their energy modalities. Got it?
Not everyone in Middlesex is happy about the EmoTrancers manipulating their children’s energy modalities, however. David Colquhoun, professor of pharmacology at University College London and a campaigner against the teaching of pseudoscience in schools and universities, described EmoTrance as “psychobabble” and “preposterous make-believe.” Another less outspoken professor called the school’s acceptance of EmoTrance without the least debate, “cause for concern.”
The creator of EmoTrance is Silvia Hartmann, who, by the looks of her online resume, is trying to become the Mary Baker Eddy of scienceless mind science. Quoting her from the EmoTrance website:
In 2002, I had accumulated so many patterns and techniques, all based on a central understanding how the Universe works which consists of that which is measurable, AS WELL as that which is currently not measurable, that it became necessary to create a framework for teaching this.
And a new product was born, though not by any means Hartmann’s first. She boasts a slew of similar creations, including ‘Energy Hypnosis’ and ‘Project Sanctuary’ among others. Her site further states that she has “dedicated her life to finding practical answers to humanity’s oldest questions, and to find logical solutions to the challenges that arise from being a conscious human in the inexplicable bounty of the Universe.”
Which is all well and good. The new age movement is nothing if not spectacularly uninventive, but if its adherents are willing to pay for semantic regurgitation, fine. How, though, do we explain this pabulum making its way into schools?
It’s difficult to answer that question without understanding the manic undercurrent that pulls these movements along to widespread acceptance. The Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT), a similar emotional healing product, has been riding that current for a couple years now. You’ll probably recognize EFT if I tell you that you can “tap your way to emotional freedom”– by tapping acupuncture pressure points on your neck and wrists while recalling a traumatic event, EFT devotees claim that you can manipulate your body’s emotional energy field and rid yourself of the negative energy associated with the memory.
The principles of EFT are scientifically baseless, as are those of EmoTrance and every other flavor of healing via “energy manipulation.” But that doesn’t mean they don’t work–for lack of a better word–for a percentage of their users.
Why this is true is the same reason sugar pills beat antidepressants in 7 of 10 blind clinical trials. The same reason that if someone in pain thinks a shot of saline solution is morphine, they’ll likely feel less pain. The same reason someone suffering from migraines feels relief after a faith healer smacks him on the forehead. The placebo effect is very real; if the administration of the “cure” is convincing enough, the brain will respond as if it received an actual remedy. At least for a while.
Which is why designers of programs like EmoTrance can build empires of trainers and various other functionary shills to hoist the product on new audiences. If marketed effectively, EmoTrance, like EFT, will gain acceptance without ever having to pass a single scientific test of falsifiability. Its creator will continue to spin an intricate web of obscure verbiage for her minions to wrap themselves in. The coffers will overflow.
But schools should be a sanctuary from pseudoscience. To allow these programs to be taught in institutions claiming to teach critical thinking skills is like allowing tribal shamans to hold seminars on exorcism for resident doctors. If adults want to pay for the shaman’s medicine, let them — but children in school should be afforded a much higher grade of insulation.
Granted, the EmoTrancers haven’t made much progress on the school front yet, but they have a marketing plan well in place. Here’s hoping they fail.