Journalist and Writer
Hilary Wilce specialising in all aspects of education
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The Quandary - 20 Sep 2007

Teaching happiness when children canít even master basic English and maths? How can people be so stupid?

Hillary's Advice

I, too, have doubts about these so-called happiness lessons, but they are different to yours. Iím fundamentally well-disposed towards teaching children how to manage their thoughts and feelings. After all, itís something that millions of adults struggle to learn in later life through therapy or self-help manuals. Why not help children be aware of how their minds can be a help or a hindrance, and get them thinking about powerful tools like anger management and positive thinking? And Iím pretty sure it will help their English and maths as well, in spite of your conviction that too much happiness will cause basic skills to take a further dive. Happy and confident pupils are far more likely to do well than anxious and insecure ones.

My doubts are firstly about calling it happiness in the first place Ė itís inaccurate and silly Ė and secondly about the Government ordering teachers to teach anything new without first telling them what they can take out of the over-crowded curriculum to make room for it.

My third doubt is about the quality of lessons likely to be on offer. This is an area that needs teaching with conviction and insight, otherwise it will become banal in the extreme. Yet many teachers are bound to feel resentful about this unwelcome task that has been foisted on them by the politicians and may not feel either equipped or inclined to do a good job. It would have been far better if the Government had simply outlined the case for the teaching this subject, pointed to where good lesson materials might be found, and let schools to get on with it.