Our apologies to the United Kingdom. This week, U.S. psychologist Martin Seligman spoke to a conference in London and, reports The Guardian, said that "lessons in happiness should be on the school curriculum to try to improve young people's mental health." In the U.K., apparently, this ship has already been launched: "Seligman's ideas of ‘positive education' are now being tested in schools in Manchester, south Tyneside and Hertfordshire," the newspaper informs us. "Pupils are being taught how to handle day-to-day stress, assertiveness, decision-making and how to change negative thoughts." Sounds so very warm and cozy. But there are only so many hours in the day, alas, and schools are traditionally thought to be places where youngsters are taught reading, math, and science rather than lessons about self-esteem and positive thinking. (Kids who are clinically depressed should, of course, receive medical attention, not classroom coaching.) A tasty recipe for burnishing pupils' self-images would be to hold the kids to high standards of academics and discipline. By expecting and encouraging students to strive for the rewards that come from setting goals, working hard, and accomplishing them, schools prepare their charges for the real world, where namby-pamby, therapeutic chit-chat is not the norm.
"Call for happiness lessons as teenage depression increases," by Carlene Thomas-Bailey, The Guardian, September 10, 2008