Wrong place to teach happiness

26th May 2006 at 01:00
Anthony Seldon may be happy to annoy the right-wing press (TES, May 12), but he still has not made a convincing case for lessons in positive psychology.

While few would doubt that developing skills in what the positive psychologists call our "signature strengths" can lead to a greater sense of happiness for adults, the school lesson isn't the right forum for this: there are just too many negative connotations associated with lessons for children to start feeling happier about their lot (I wish it were otherwise). It only takes a conversation with anyone who has taught citizenship to see we are not becoming better citizens just because it is now a subject taught at school.

Dr Seldon talks of pupils learning to maximise their chances of happiness later in life, but as the research of Martin Seligman and others shows, this is achieved through things such as a good marriage, religion and pet ownership - all difficult to practise in the context of even the most forward-thinking school.

Dr Seldon goes on to suggest, somewhat defensively, that he will be reviewing the effectiveness of these classes. I look forward to the evaluations: how do you measure personal happiness in the short-term? "Yes, I feel happier today, Sir, than I did yesterday", so it must be working?

Neil Roskilly

Principal, Cambridge centrefor sixth-form studies 1 Salisbury Villas Station Road, Cambridge

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