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

Subscribe to get access to the content on this page.

If you are already a Tes/ Tes Scotland subscriber please log in with your username or email address to get full access to our back issues, CPD library and membership plus page.

Not a subscriber? Find out more about our subscription offers.
Subscribe now
Existing subscriber?
Enter subscription number


The guide by your side – ensuring you are always up to date with the latest in education.

Get Tes magazine online and delivered to your door. Stay up to date with the latest research, teacher innovation and insight, plus classroom tips and techniques with a Tes magazine subscription.
With a Tes magazine subscription you get exclusive access to our CPD library. Including our New Teachers’ special for NQTS, Ed Tech, How to Get a Job, Trip Planner, Ed Biz Special and all Tes back issues.

Subscribe now