A fundamental responsibilty for education
Happiness comes from the Old Norse word 'happ', meaning 'luck' or 'good fortune'.
Scientific research however provides us with an alternative source for the stuff- we can discover
where happiness comes from and we can encourage it.
Happiness is the most fundamentally desirable property (but do see Bentall,
(1992) for a humorous alternative perspective).
As Martin (2005) highlights in his great read Making Happy People, "With the
sole exception of happiness, everything we humans desire can be regarded as a
means to some higher end- and that higher end is usually happiness. People
chase after money, power, material possessions, beauty or fame because they
believe- often mistakenly- that these will bring them happiness. But no one ever
seeks happiness in the belief that it will bring them some even higher benefit".
The manner in which we seek surrogates in our search for happiness is neatly illustated in Amelie
Chance’s image below:
We truly want happiness for ourselves
and for our children. This is a
fundamental wish, and far from a
nebulous 'new-agey' goal.
The evidence demonstrates that happy
people are on average mentally and
physically healthier, more successful in
the classroom and in the work place,
more creative, more popular, more
sociable, longer lived and less likely to
follow a life of crime or become addicted
If we know how, then teach them how...
The growing body of research on happiness provides us with methods by which we can understand
this 'ethereal stuff'- and help people be happier. Research on the heritability of happiness suggests
that around 50% of the variance in a person’s happiness rating is genetically controlled- linked to
aspects of personality. The other 50% then is fair game- happiness that we rate as a consequence
of our environment and how we have interacted with it.
I believe that a core role of a school or college should be to help people maximise their current
and future happiness. This role is not in conflict with the aim of maximising achievement or
developing a lifelong love of learning. Happiness and academic success are far from mutually
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So... examine the evidence
So... adopt evidence-based methods
So... enhance learning