TED Conversations

John Griffin

This conversation is closed.

A course for middle school and high school students on Happiness.

Not only do schools crush the creative spirit, they prevent young people from pursuing their "bliss", encouraging them instead to build impressive "resumes" to gain admittance to selective colleges. So, along the way they jettison their passions in favor of what will look the best on a transcript. The problem is this - what if this resume-building behavior has absolutely nothing to do with authentic happiness. It seems to me that the place to begin is by having students explore the idea of happiness. I want students to make informed decisions, decisions that will lead not necessarily to material success but to real happiness, peace, and fulfillment. A course on happiness offered at Harvard has been enormously popular - but why wait until college to start talking about it?

Share:
  • thumb
    Mar 16 2012: Students applying to college often discover while in high school that colleges are looking for people who seem thoughtful, creative, willing to take risks, eager to expose themselves to new ideas, and excited about exploring many exciting pathways. So even those who may not be thinking about pursuing their bliss for its own sake will likely get the message while in high school that colleges want students who are interested in doing innovative things.

    Colleges, in turn, sell themselves to potential applicants by showcasing the variety of offerings they have, both academic and extracurricular, for students to build community and become exposed to fascinating areas they never knew existed.

    I can't say whether schools in general fail to talk with kids about ideas for a meaningful and engaging life, as that has not been my experience with my own kids' schools. But I absolutely believe kids should not be pushed to choose a life direction while they are still in high school other than the choice to continue to explore, learn about a broad array of subjects and opportunities, and build a foundation for keeping their options open.
    • Mar 22 2012: My experience as a high school teacher at an independent school is that students are quite apprehensive about taking risks. They are terrified of being wrong and failing in life. Somehow the words 'success' and 'happiness' are never used in the same sentence. I know there is a hunger for an exploration of real happiness given the overwhelming response to a course offered on that topic at Harvard. If I see one more kid sign up for AP Calculus in lieu of a course in creative writing, ceramics, or psychology, courses they are passionate about, I am going to either scream or cry.
  • thumb
    Mar 16 2012: As a current high school senior, this topic is very much a part of my day-to-day thought process. However, I am concerned that alot of my classmates aren't thinking along this line of thought. I know that most of my classmates are going off to college next year but I don't think they know why they're going; they're just going because that is what is expected of them. I know I am not in the situation to make this conclusion but I'm going to say it any way: Alot of the best students in my class have missed out on the "high school experience" because they've been so focused on their GPA and what they are going to do after high school. The High school experience I am referring to is the turbulent time that most people (i think) go through during high school where they develop what they want to do with their life and they develop what they don't want to do. After this development, or during this process, they start to create a plan that they can follow to reach their goals. There should be some outside force that helps facilitate this discovery but since it occurs for different people in different ways at different times, it becomes harder to facilitate as a group.
  • Mar 25 2012: Happiness must be found and taught as an important curriculum of education, be at the school or at the home. And happiness must an environment and nucleus of all education.

    All cultures and societies define the happiness in their own words, with the basic similarities. As they evolve this happiness find its support in few comforts and material things. Few recognitions and status in physical assets and few other in intellectual. And this got a bad shape when acquainted with relativity and form a race to be always ahead of someone known and unknown.

    All the present education is a result of the evolution human societies had achieved till date. When we were happy, we were lacking the physical assets and comforts, when we are comfortable we are not happy, because we focus on what we don't have, instead of what we have. Though this is another way to grow, but the big question is, 'is the lacking qualify the definition of growth?'If not, why to run and what to achieve.

    Came back to the education systems, which sells career and growth, and the are correct. We have asked them to raise our child as a skillful and effective professional. And supported those institutes only that have created them. They have produced them. With humble apology and regret, we find them machines.

    Nowwwwww, we are asking for happiness! We are looking for humans. They will produce the same. It would take some time. We have to re-access the meaning of career and growth. Is it only about mansions, best vehicles, attractive and costlier attires, share market or ?

    But are you ready?
    • Mar 25 2012: Do you know what happiness is?
      • Mar 25 2012: Your words express that you must have some different opinion, please communicate. To have 360 degree, I must learn the view as front from other side. I will be grateful to you.

        The dictionary says. It is feeling or showing pleasure...

        With regards

        The Mindfood Chef
        • Apr 1 2012: Do you know what happiness is? A dictionary definition is not your definition.
  • thumb
    Mar 22 2012: In my experience as an educator, kids were not as averse to taking risks or afraid of making mistakes as much as their parents were afraid for them. For this reason I was so disappointed when we went to a reporting system in which every score had to be posted online for immediate access by parents.
    I don't think offering or pursuing rigorous coursework is necessarily at odds with guiding students toward intellectual adventurousness and a creative attitude. Some schools offer guidance or personal development courses that address issues of values explicitly and in other cases teachers will convey guiding messages, regardless of the subjects they teach.
  • Mar 22 2012: Hi Kieran,
    Did you know that in Bhutan they measure 'success' not by Gross Domestic Product but by Gross National Happiness? It might be the case that GPA, just another success benchmark, is simply over-emphasized at the expense of a broader outlook. I would never tell my own kids or my students to ignore GPA, but I would tell them that GPA will take care of itself if you have worked at cultivating your own happiness - if you have been true to yourself. Have you identified what produces happiness in you? What is your passion?
  • Mar 18 2012: Actually, it is just positive psychology, which is different than a course on happiness. It is a subdivision of humanistic psychology and is about nurturing the environment into a more self-fulfilling matter. However, a course on positive psychology would still be a great course for students who are interested in medicine, psychology, or social studies.
    • Mar 22 2012: Hi Zared,
      I think a course entitled 'Happiness' might be an easier sell to middle school and high school kids. I would like to collaborate with psychologists, other educators, and perhaps people like Buddhist monks in the design of a meaningful course.
      • Mar 23 2012: A class in happiness is not the true class and saying that it is will be lying to the students. Positive psychology is a way more meaningful class title. Buddhist monks? Stick with science for a meaningful psychology class.