Happiness Lessons in Schools

Here’s an interesting article from the Guardian about the argument for and against teaching happiness lessons in schools.

You can see why Anthony Seldon, head of Wellington College (one of the most elite schools in the UK) is so keen that kids get something more than the National Curriculum, since it will hardly prepare them for the adult world in the 21st Century after all. But teaching them Positive Psychology doesn’t fill Richard Schoch with confidence, largely because he says you can’t measure meaning and engagement, which are the holy grail of happiness. He thinks there is a place for well-being in the classroom, but doesn’t really have any suggestions about how to teach it, other than getting kids to read ancient texts.

Hmmmmm.

I’m not sure that’s the answer either!

The really interesting question is why we feel that children need to be taught about happiness in the first place. Some people (including Seldon) have argued that kids are more prone to depression, anxiety and other mental illnesses than in the past. So teaching them various life skills will help them survive these issues. If that’s the case, shouldn’t we be asking ourselves what is causing them to be more prone to depression, anxiety and other mental illnesses in the first place, and try to do something to fix that?

According to Schoch, Positive Psychology is a bit like Marmite, i.e. you either love it or you hate it. The challenge for Positive Psychologists is how to persuade its critics that it’s a useful subject which can make a positive difference to how people choose to live their lives. I’m not sure it’s succeeding in that aim at the moment. What do you think?

You can read the original debate between Seldon and sociologist Frank Furedi here.

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