June 13, 2007 in Politics

Be Happy

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I suppose teaching students how to be happy isn’t completely an off the wall idea.

Call for happiness to be taught in schools
By Scheherazade Daneshkhu, Economics Correspondent, Financial Times
Published: June 13 2007 03:00 | Last updated: June 13 2007 03:00
The teaching of happiness should take its place alongside core subjects like maths and English as part of an “educational revolution” that puts compassionate values at the heart of the education system, a government adviser has recommended.
In an article to be published today by the Centre for Economic Performance at the London School of Economics, Richard Layard, LSE professor and a Labour peer, said schools had a central role to play in countering a large rise in emotional disturbance by teaching children how to be happy.
He called for a new cadre of teachers trained to impart values. “How can we do this? I think it requires an educational revolution in which a central purpose of our schools is to teach young people about the main secrets of happiness for which we have empirical evidence,” he wrote.
Lord Layard said schools were ideally placed for this undertaking because more people spent more of their life in education than ever before. Although parents were important, “if we want to change the culture, the main organised institutions we have under social control are schools”.

The peer said trials of programmes to build character had succeeded in reducing the growing problem of teenage depression. The proportion of 16-year-olds with serious emotional problems had risen to 17 per cent in 1999 from 10 per cent in 1986. Prime minister Tony Blair’s “respect” programme aimed at countering yobbish behaviour was “more repressive than preventative”, Lord Layard said.
He called instead on the government to “create a profession of personal, social and health education teachers” because “without a cadre of specialist teachers acting as standard-bearers of the movement, there is no chance of the educational revolution we need”.
Lord Layard said current teaching on personal and economic well-being in schools did not go far enough in countering the rise in individualism and a fall in trust which he argued needed to be reversed to make society happier. A recent study by the United Nations Children’s Fund ranked the UK as the lowest among developed countries for children’s quality of life and topped its list with the Netherlands.
However, Lord Layard’s comments drew criticism from those arguing that happiness was not a subject which could be taught.
Martin Stephen, high master of St Paul’s school for boys in London, said that teaching happiness was “impractical and undesirable”.
He said the curriculum was overloaded and already included “a tremendous amount” on well-being.
“If we are to have lessons on happiness, which subjects are to be dropped from the curriculum?” he asked, adding there was an “active danger” in asking schools to take on the job instead of parents who had already formed their children.
How to be happy
*Spend more time caring about other people*Do not constantly compare yourself with other people*Choose goals that stretch you but are attainable *Challenge negative thoughts and focus on the positive aspects of your character and situation Source: Lord Layard
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2007

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