From The Washington Post:
The D.C. Council, in a flourish of whereases, proclaimed March 16 Brain Education Day, responding to a nationwide call from a brain-wave guru in Sedona, Ariz. (The Montgomery County Council was set to make the same proclamation Tuesday but canceled at the last minute. And supporters in Fairfax County missed the submission deadline.)
The council’s formal resolution says brain education helps “create physical, emotional and social well-being, as well as higher achievement.” The proclamation closes by praising its “potential to improve the human condition.”
So what is brain education?
If a recent class at a Dahn Yoga Center in Alexandria is any guide, it’s a whole lot of shaking. Students wear matching white uniforms, stand in a circle and, after vigorously and rhythmically pounding their bellies, shake. Their heads, their shoulders. Their hips, their knees. The shaking, practitioners say, vibrates the brain, calms brain waves and helps clear the mind.
“It’s so much less weird than it sounds,” practitioner Joanne Steller said after class. “It refreshes your mind.”
Practitioners follow a five-step training system — such as “brain versatilizing” — to achieve better HSP, or “health, happiness and peace.” The method was developed by Ilchi Lee, originally from South Korea, who oversees an international brain education organization headquartered in Sedona, otherwise known as the “New Age Capital” of the world.
Fortunately, not everyone is buying this nonsense:
A similar proclamation in Montgomery was ready to go when staffers who vet ceremonial proclamations — there are about two each week — went to the brain education Web site to check the group out. “When we checked, we decided it was not appropriate,” said council spokesman Neil Greenberger. “We like to use our good judgment to make sure something is appropriate for Montgomery County.”
Ignoring for the moment how bizarre the actual methods are and the fact that their developer, Ilchi Lee, is a longstanding purveyor of pseudoscience, what did Montgomery County staffers find when they visited the Brain Education website? The website makes various claims about improving mental performance, and it even cites two published studies. Unfortunately, neither is published in a mainstream or widely-available journal (a major red flag). The first was published in the Korean Journal of Educational Research, which is not available in English and not subscribed to by my university (and I couldn’t find any more information about this journal on the web). The second study was published in the Journal of Brain Education. This one is also not available in English, but, better yet, it’s published by the “University of Brain Education“. Guess who the president of this “university” is? Ilchi Lee, of course.
The Brain Sciences website does include a couple of charts from this latter publication, which you can take a look at for yourself here. They show a marginal improvement in a few different intelligence tests (no details on how these were conducted), but these results are meaningless without any error bars (my guess is that none of these improvements are statistically significant given the small sample sizes used). They also adjusted the graph axes in a way to make the data appear as favorable as possible. If this is representative of what’s in these two studies, then it’s no surprise they couldn’t publish any of this in a more respected and widely available journals.
If a quick examination of the Brain Education website is all it takes–as Montgomery County staffers found–to discover that the claims about Ilchi’s curriculum are groundless, then why is DC recognizing this pseudoscientific nonsense?