Schools for human flourishing?

Kids, it turns out, don't typically derive much happiness from school. Alert the media!

More seriously: can we reverse this? 

The evolutionary psychologist Peter Gray writes, in an article I linked to from yesterday's post:

A few years ago, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and Jeremy Hunter conducted a study of happiness and unhappiness in public school students, in 6th through 12th grades.

Each of the 828 participants, from 33 different schools in 12 different communities across the country, wore a special wristwatch for a week, which was programmed to provide a signal at random times between 7:30 am and 10:30 pm.

Whenever the signal went off participants filled out a questionnaire indicating where they were, what they were doing, and how happy or unhappy they were at the moment.

The lowest levels of happiness by far (surprise, surprise) occurred when children were at school, and the highest levels occurred when they were out of school and conversing or playing with friends.

Time spent with parents fell in the middle of the happiness-unhappiness range.

Average happiness increased on weekends, but then plummeted from late Sunday afternoon through the evening, in anticipation of the coming school week.

It's nice to have what we've all suspected quantified: kids (at least in middle and high school) don't much like school.

Can we reverse this?

For years, I've been nigh-obsessed with the positive psychology movement — the group of researchers who've been trying to understand not just how people get sick, but how they get well. 

These researchers are working to mend the world.

I've been a fan of positive psychology for years, reading scores of books, and re-vamping all of my thinking along its lines.

And one of my goals — one of my mostly secret goals — has been that, as we re-invent every aspect of the curriculum to cultivate love, mastery, and meaning, we can create schools that cultivate well-being.

That we can take a major dent out of human suffering.

That we can create schools for human flourishing. 

I've written a little about that in the past, but I've been holding back on talking about it lately. To aim for well-being seemed too grand, too unachievable.

Well: nuts to that! 

I'm launching a class on human well-being this Friday, and so will be swimming in positive psychology for the next eight months. As we move on, I'll be incorporating more positive psychology into what I write here —

look for it!

Brandon Hendrickson

Seattle, WA