Trying to make sense of life and to learn living it happily.

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Friday, October 19, 2012

Why We Need To Add Happiness To School Curriculum

Art by ~2Happy
Young people graduate from school equipped to solve mathematical equations, arrange chemical experiments, and write essays. But often they graduate to the adult life not equipped with skills that will help them deal with everyday struggles, emotions, and difficulties. They are not equipped to be happy individuals.

Happiness is arguably the ultimate meaning of our life. Is there anything we want more for our kids than to be happy? If given a choice, would a parent prefer that her child knows capital cities of all countries or knows how to be a happy person? The ultimate purpose of the traditional academic education is to instill children with knowledge needed for for their future careers. But it does not teach kids the good attitude to deal with the many future personal experiences that make up our life. Inner well-being and peace are as crucial and necessary as the academic skills. It does not make sense to pay no attention to the development of happiness skills.

In 2011, United Kingdom published a report that confirms that lots of kids face serious emotional problems by the time they graduate school. Based on UK statistics, which probably does not differ too much from the situation in the USA, by the time an average class of 30 young people reach their 16th birthdays:
  • 10 of them will have witnessed their parents separate
  • 3 will have suffered from mental health problems
  • 8 will have experienced severe physical violence, sexual abuse or neglect
  • 3 will be living in a step family
  • 1 will have experienced the death of a parent
  • 7 will report having been bullied.
Relate (a leading provider of counseling, therapy, and education in UK)  cites research evidence which shows that emotional and mental health problems developed in childhood and adolescence go on to affect adults later in life. The resulting problems with poor emotional adjustment and general feelings of unhappiness are bad enough. But that is not all the consequences our kids are facing. Unhappiness and emotional imbalance can cause young people to do badly in exams or drop out of education altogether, with consequent damage to their long-term employment prospects and health. For more on the report, see http://www.relate.org.uk/about-us/media-centre/press-releases/2013/12/11/relate-calls-statutory-provision-counselling-schools.

I agree with Relate's specialist that schools are the best places to reach young people, and early intervention is effective. But I believe that the most effective solution is prevention. Adding the subject of happiness to school curriculum can help children better deal with their issues, and develop coping mechanisms for the future.

Usually, the kids get emotional guidance and character building from interacting with families and friends. As parents, we always try our hardest to raise good people: continuously pass our wisdom to our kids, indoctrinate our values to them, tell them what is good and what is bad, teach them manners, help them with the choice of profession and life partner (if they let us). But do we teach them how to be happy, joyful, grateful, peaceful? Do we live our lives with contentment and moderation, leading our children by example? Parents are people too, and not all of us are happy ourselves. Unfortunately, we do not always have the time, the vision or the skills to instill the basics of happiness into our children. So both the adults and the kids go about the pursuit of happiness by the trial and error method.

There are more and more politicians, organizations and individuals who believe that happiness skills can be learned and should be included in traditional educations. On his Facebook page, the Dalai Lama says that education is the proper way to promote compassion, piece of mind and tolerance in society, which bring a sense of confidence and reduce stress and anxiety (https://www.facebook.com/DalaiLama) . England requested that schools and colleges promote wellbeing to students (http://www.optimus-education.com/can-schools-promote-happiness). The US army uses classes developed by the "Authentic Happiness" program at the University of Pennsylvania to increase resilience levels of the troops (http://www.authentichappiness.sas.upenn.edu/newsletter.aspx?id=1552).

School is the place where our kids grow up, and where they are formed as individuals as much as they are at home. The school system has the infrastructure for influencing entire generations, letting out better adjusted and happier people. Unfortunately, schools spend most of their efforts on achieving high test results and good rankings. There is little emphasis on personal or emotional development. I believe happiness skills are among some of the most important skills a person possesses. To me it is obvious that the school system must help develop happiness skills as much as literacy skills in all children. I would like to see USA schools and schools all over the world to add happiness lessons to their curricula and deliver it to every kid. It will make for better adults and for better societies, and ultimately, for better world.

To see this happen, I plan to open an organization to raise public support, develop happiness curriculum and promote it to schools and departments of education in the US and possibly, worldwide. 

If you think this idea is important and worthwhile, and you would like to help, please contact me. I am looking for anyone who can contribute their skills, knowledge, and advice in the fields of not-for-profit organizations, school curricula, marketing, public relations, legal aspects and more!

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  1. I agree. Happiness should be a subject in school curriculum. The teacher who teaches this subject has to be a happy person himself/ herself. Do not be a slave to money. Be happy.

  2. You can not teach happiness and happiness should not be our goal. That is why we have so many divorces now. Everyone is searching for happiness and if that person no longer makes you happy, then just get rid of them. This is tearing the family structure apart at the seams. We need to teach loyalty, devotion, compassion, honesty, and sacrificing selfish needs for the good of others (Example: Making dinner for your family even when you are tired and really don't want to. Helping your children with their homework when you really want to watch a football game instead).

    1. Susan,
      Your example of people divorcing when the other person no longer makes then happy is a good example in favor of teaching happiness skills. Too many people do not realize that their level of happiness depends mostly on themselves. Instead, they rely too much on other people to make them happy. That is, in my opinion, one of the reasons for failed marriages.
      And I believe that being happy is not the same as being selfish. People with different personalities, selfish, giving, and all the rest, can be happy or unhappy, as long as they are content with themselves. So while a selfish person will be happy to ignore the needs of others and watch a football game, an unselfish person will find happiness in helping the kids with their homework. Happiness is not as much in personality as it is in the attitude.

  3. Would love to help as That's what I do ...Try to make all people I meet happy....www.razz-ma-tazz.net

    1. Shalini,
      thank you so much!
      It is great to see other people dedicated to the same goal.
      Best wishes!

  4. would love to take part of the project. this is what I teach the teachers on my workshops.

    1. Rivka,
      thank you for your comment.
      It is important for everyone to understand happiness better, and it is crucial for teachers.
      Do you use any particular curriculum?

  5. I'm looking into home-school curriculum and have noticed that many say they are Biblical in basis, but are not being specific about their view of history. I want to choose textbooks/ curriculum that are not going to be filled with "millions of years ago". Can anyone offer assistance? Thanks

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