Happiness or Grammar?

Graduation 2 - Fernando Weberich

A reader wonders what our priorities should be. And the Soul Sister tells us - and explains why.

Dear Soul Sister

The other day I heard a lively discussion on Radio 4, and couldn’t help but agree with the guests. They said that we need children to learn basic skills in school (maths, reading, science), and that teaching them happiness is really a neo-liberal waste of time. Indeed, when I see new employees who can't even spell properly I do wonder. I am not a terribly conservative person, but surely first things first!

- Mystified


Dear Mystified

I can understand your annoyance at what seems a bit of a luxury when you first hear of it - happiness as a subject one can learn. Only Americans would put this in their constitution, wouldn’t they!

But if we are honest, isn’t that exactly what most of us want, work for, and spend our lives trying to get? And isn’t it also an elusive thing we find so hard to describe and understand that instead we try to forget about it with our busy lives? Then, when it comes to haunt us, we feel like we're under a thick, grey fog that won't lift?

That is why learning about how to be happy when you are young makes such perfect sense. The techniques then become part of your skill set, just like maths and reading. Teaching these skills for happiness is the purpose of the classes, and the results are amazing. What Prof Stefan Klein calls ‘Reflective Self-Management’ is what good parenting should teach us, but so often this is not provided by the caregivers. Prof Susanne Leiberg found that just two or three sessions of Loving-Kindness Meditation achieved a subtle change in the brain, so think of what more could be achieve when regular classes are given.

Yes, schools are giving an added value here, but I think it takes us right to the center of what education is for: preparing children for good, fulfilled, happy lives.