Classes in happiness make me depressed

28th April 2006 at 01:00
It is difficult to think of anything that so typifies the UK in 2006 as lessons in happiness.

Wellington college, a school that caters mainly for the children of the wealthy, has decided to teach pupils how to be happy.

It may, of course, be that wealth and happiness are inversely related.

Since there are no reports that the happiness team (from Cambridge university) are working in an inner-city comprehensive as well as a school for the well-heeled, we shall be none the wiser on this matter.

The head of Wellington apparently believes that this innovation could take off in schools because we have been focusing too much on academic learning and missing out on something far more important.

In the unlikely event that anyone at the Department for Education and Skills gives this idea the time of day, we will be told that happiness lessons are not needed in state schools because pupils in these schools already have lessons in religious education and personal and social education, and they begin each day with "a corporate act of worship, mainly of a Christian nature". Such a response will merely underline the fact that few in authority understand the problem.

A weekly injection of happiness at school is, unfortunately, a mechanistic response to a much more deep-seated national problem. Youth should, by definition, be a time of happiness: it is a time of comparatively few responsibilities, a time for dreams, and a time to revel in the sheer joy of being alive. We have got something seriously wrong in society if we have to teach young people how to be happy.

Dr Stuart Newton Teacher Hove and Sussex sixth-form college

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