Poor in spirit

Americans are richer than ever, yet no happier than in the early 1970s. So Richard Bok asserts in The Politics of Happiness: What Government Can Learn from the New Research on Well-Being. In this longish New Yorker piece, Elizabeth Kolbert reviews the latest research on being happy--and the news is anything but. Turns out money can’t buy happiness; getting a raise won’t make you feel any better, nor will moving somewhere warm or having kids of your own. One possible explanation is the “hedonic treadmill”: We quickly adjust to increases in quality of life--to our smart phones, vacation homes, and luxury cars. Or it might be that we’re relativists. As soon as all our friends buy iPads too, our new toy loses its luster. So what might this mean for education? Here’s one thought: If we’re trying to get all kids “college- and career-ready” so that they might be rich when they grow up, we should be careful not to presume that they will be happy, too.

"Everybody have fun," by Elizabeth Kolbert, The New Yorker, March 22, 2010

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