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An awe-inspiring emotion-happiness-is the fuel that sparks excitement in the human mind, body,
and spirit.
One of the best emotions to feel is happiness. Human beings live for food, clothing, and 
shelter—the basic necessities of life for satisfaction. But, do they also live to be happy and 
content with the world around them? Is happiness, a basic necessity that not only tugs at the heart 
strings, but also stimulates the creative mind?
A basic necessity or need is something that is not always tangible. It can be sensed through 
feeling or realized by deed. As children grow and learn about their surroundings, they 
develop personalities based on many biological and social factors. These factors, which shape 
experiences at home and at school, lead children through rites of passage and toward adulthood.
The Debate
A debate over introducing the study of happiness in schools is currently underway. Many 
educators feel that by clarifying values, such as happiness, children become better students that 
enjoy the process of learning about themselves. Conversely, opponents of happiness studies 
emphasize that schools should not be responsible for teaching children emotional literacy.
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Weighing these two positions can be cumbersome because of the politics of teaching positive 
psychology and “tempting to look for non-academic solutions” to children’s ineptitudes (Seldon 
& Furedi, 2008, para. 21). If teaching happiness can open doors that acknowledge positivity, 
perhaps, students will develop mindfulness to experience life with attentiveness, compassion, 
and balance.
Pros
Advocates of instructing the value of happiness insist that the world of children can be easily 
shattered by self-harming behavior unless schools teach them how to live autonomous lives. 
Teachers can model positive habits that elicit their students’ happiness, an affectatious feeling 
rooted in ethical action.
Many educators think they must be held accountable for students’ emotional growth as well as 
their intellectual growth. Already, colleges, like Harvard and Cambridge, are devoting programs 
of study to positive psychology studies that focus on wellbeing. Consequently, evidence exists 
that substantiates “happiness” curriculum and instruction in today’s society.
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Cons
Opponents of happiness curriculum stress that school is not the place for such instruction. Seldon 
& Furedi (2008) assert, “Emotional education encourages an inward-looking orientation that 
distracts children from engaging with the world” (para. 18). This implies that when teachers 
try to mold their students’ personalities, they do a disservice to young minds. For this reason, 
opponents believe that only doctors, psychologists, and counselors should help children with 
mental health concerns, such as emotional wellbeing.
Further, some people believe that poor teachers use happiness curriculum in order to avoid the 
more pressing subjects (e.g., math and science) associated with academic curriculum. “This 
therapeutic orientation serves to distract pupils and teachers alike from getting on with the job of 
gaining a real education” (Seldon & Furedi, 2008, para. 21). This idea is quite distressing in an 
age when education is the key to improving society; having happy, but uneducated, adults will 
not solve the problems of illiteracy.
Summarizing the Debate
Now that mindfulness or happiness curriculum has an evidence-based track record, debaters 
recognize that the issue is here to stay. Teachers, administrators, parents, students, and other 
key stakeholders are realizing that teaching values is a controversial task and a hard habit to 
break. Like any hot debate, teaching happiness in schools is an issue that warrants careful public 
attention.
Because people of different cultures, races, geographic locations, and socioeconomic statuses 
perceive happiness in a variety of ways, making it a classical subject for instruction would be 
next to impossible. And, often discontent and sadness are values that motivate people to succeed. 
Thus, a bad feeling is not necessarily taboo in a global society where discontented people can 
move a nation to civil action, or an unhappy individual can make personal reflections for self-
improvement.
Sources:
Greenland, S.K. (2011). Making happiness a habit through mindfulness. Retrieved August 17, 
2011.
Seldon, A. & Furedi, F. (2008). Can we teach people to be happy? Retrieved August 17, 2011.