Learning for life- and bigger smiles I am always irritated by those that state that a school has a single function: to squeeze qualifications into childrens’ heads. I refute the viewpoint espoused by Ferudi (2009)  that Education, “... regards the transmission of cultural and intellectual achievements of humanity to children as its defining mission”. Happiness matters. Research shows that education helps to make happy people, and that, "happy children typically learn more and perform better in the classroom than unhappy children. They are more energetic, more persistent, more creative, more focussed, and better able to get on with their classmates and teachers" (Martin, 2005). If (and I don’t accept the claim) the sole index of success in schools is exam results, then due focus on developing levels of happiness can only boost performance according to that metric. League tables have driven up exam results- perhaps the measuring of happiness levels in schools and the publishing of school happiness measures could change the day-to-day well-being of young people across the country, AND increase achievement. Teaching Happiness: Methods? Layard (2005) stresses the importance of schools in making happy people. He correctly recognizes the common waste of time and effort directed towards PSHE in British schools- and suggests that it could be better harnessed with the aim of creating a happier generation of adults than the current generation. Ferudi (2009) is correct to warn against schools following pseudo-scientific, mumbo-jumbo strategies designed to develop wellbeing. He is fair in his claim that many strategies pedalled as behavioural and emotional fixes to schools are Snake Oil of a premium grade. Barbara Ehrenreich, in her various books, highlights the faux science used to support much of the positive psychology movement. In the UK, the widespread adoption of SEAL in schools is another case to point that all teachers should be aware of. These arguments however are not sufficient to dismiss the desirability of finding methods of helping people to be more happy in their lives- they just emphasize the need to get the strategies correct and generate some reliable, peer reviewed evidence of efficacy that supports them. In 1967 the first heart transplant was attempted- and was unsuccessful. Within two years more than 150 had been attempted- with 80% of patients dying within a year. Now there are more that 2000 being undertaken each year with reasonable outcomes, and improvements in techniques are ongoing. The succes of such medical interventions are due to research and the constant evaluation of methods. The same approach should apply to all educational methods. We can find strategies for education that will lead to happier people. Teaching Happiness: Get ‘em off the treadmill It is clear that many grow up with a misguided and unchallenged belief that money is the gateway to the greatest happiness, and the pursuit of riches is often adopted as the life goal. Advertisers and the media constantly feed the perception that success is, above all else, found through the trappings of wealth. Myers (2009) provides us with evidence from the USA that more and more students are seeing the intellectual riches that can be gained at university as simply a ticket to wealth:   Schools can do much to erode these misconceptions through teaching learners about the fallacy of the hedonic treadmill, sharing the characteristics of happiness, and helping develop skills in young people that are associated with them: A happiness curriculum An effective PSHE programme, indeed a whole school run by leaders who are serious about creating successful happy people, would have happiness research guiding its architecture. There is no need for pseudo-science or snake oil- just robust evidence-based practice and a national drive to refine our understanding of focal areas and methods. Psychologists have shown that if we want to bestow people with a lifelong love of learning, then we should do all we can to cultivate (through experiences that are fun and engaging), an intrinsic motivation to learn. The push caused by high stakes examinations in schools does not help towards this end.  For those that believe that there is no need to promote happiness, look again at the outcomes  associated with happy people and find reasons why they should not be developed in people. Happiness is desirable for very tangible reasons. There is inequality in the happiness of our young people. The map from the Guardian illustrates the happiness of 150,000 ten-fifteen year olds in different local authorities. You can see that there is no obvious correlation between happiness and the leafy boroughs. How happy are young people in your area? Teachers matter most- what can you do about it? Finally, why on earth shouldn’t schools be directed to improve the likelihood of happiness in people’s lives during the one million minutes that learners spend within them during their education?
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