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Archive for the ‘Adolescence’ Category

Today’s high schools mostly focus on academic achievement and extracurriculars such as athletics and various social clubs. Course content is conventional and subject-specific: language arts, history, science, mathematics, and of course P.E. A school in Germany, however, is adding another class requirement: happiness.

“‘We want to teach contentment, self-confidence and personal responsibility,’ the school’s director Ernst Fritz-Schubert, told reporters….”

With the popularity of positive psychology and self-help books such as The Secret, I hope this turns out to be a trend in American public education. Too many adolescents are depressed, lonely, and seek fulfillment through reckless behavior in alcohol and drugs. After all, high school is where adolescents spend most of their time–shouldn’t high school teach them out to live a happy life?

Most coursework fulfills deep subject-specific content. Students learn Newtonian mechanics and optics in physics, quadratic equations in algebra, and the causes and effects of the Civil War in US history. The vast majority of the information taught in secondary education will be forgotten, but the arguments for continuing the subject-heavy curriculum are that it will help build character, virtue, and essentially give them the tools to make sound decisions. These same arguments can be made for building happiness—or positive psychology—into the mainstream curriculum.

Although we bombard the students with plenty of subject-specific information to help them create choices, we don’t teach students how to effective make decisions from those choices. A happiness-based curriculum will help students make choices by figuring out their own fulfillment. This, of course, is a lifelong progression but the foundation needed on how to make those choices should start in public education.
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