need teachers, not amateur therapists
Schools have no business teaching children how to be ‘happy’.
It was revealed at the weekend that some British state schools
will pilot ‘happiness lessons’ for 11-year-olds, using
cognitive therapy techniques and role play to tackle depression
and negative thinking among the nation’s children. This is
more likely to harm children than help them.
In recent years it has become fashionable to try to tackle the
crisis facing the classroom through a variety of gimmicks that have
nothing to do with education. Some earnest educationalists claim
that classroom behaviour would significantly improve if children
had regular access to drinking water; others hope that good nutritious
school meals can do the trick. They seem to believe that if children
stop munching cheeseburgers and opt for healthy alternatives then
their concentration and attentiveness will improve.
It’s not just food and water. A variety of new-age gimmicks
are used to help students relax and unwind. Aromatherapy, yoga and
‘chill out’ music are used in some schools to create
an atmosphere that educationalists hope will prove conducive to
Now the therapeutic turn in education has gone a step further with
the development of happiness lessons. A well-known US psychologist,
Professor Martin Seligman, will be brought over to train British
teachers in the art of making children happy.
This attempt to manage the emotional life of schoolkids is bad
news. It provides educationalists with yet another diversion from
confronting the low standards of British education. Anti-depression
classes will simply distract youngsters from learning useful subjects.
And instead of teaching children to be happy, it will encourage
them to become more self-oriented. Happiness classes will teach
kids to talk the therapeutic talk – and I predict that its
consequence will be a significant rise in the number of children
who will describe themselves as stressed-out and traumatised.
published on spiked, 11 July 2006