(and Why I Am Seeking It)
by Dr. Stuart Grauer on October 8, 2013
On October 17, 2013, I will be heading out for Seoul, Korea, at the invitation and generosity of their Ministry of Education, which is interested in my work as a part of their new awareness of the concept of “happiness” in life and in education. Happiness as a legitimate purpose or outcome of education is not considered in many nations.
Some educational policy makers and practitioners consider happiness to be frivolous and besides their point (whatever their point is), while for many others happiness appears to be an unrealistic luxury. For literally billions of people, most of the world, really, happiness is considered beyond any practical educational goal. Much of the world just wants a job, almost any job. The nation of Bhutan got famous for calculating a “gross domestic happiness” index to compare with their “gross domestic product” measurement of economic health. However, the new Bhutan president seems to be doing away with it. All the same, the new science of happiness has been sweeping the world’s educational forums and I believe The Grauer School has a head start of a generation or two on this issue.
One of my fellow six presenters in Korea points out, “Happiness is not just good for our feelings, it is good in itself. Happy people (when compared with those thataren’t happy) are more creative, better thinkers, help others more often, have safer, longer marriages, and stronger immune systems” (Sonja Lyubomirsky, Professor at the University of California). To be honest, this strikes me as one of those statements that demonstrates a firm grasp of the obvious. Didn’t theBible explain thousands of years ago that “A merry heart doeth good like a medicine; but a broken spirit drieth the bones” (Book of Proverbs, 17:22)? All the same, I’m thrilled to hear this idea being restated by great educational researchers.
When I received my invitation to speak in Seoul to these purposes, I found it striking. A generation ago, I often used Korea as the example of an educational system that was hyperbolic with respect to how impersonal and bureaucratic it was. Class sizes of 40. Of 60! Of course, since that time, the United States classes have grown to these sizes. The well-documented U.S. obsession with “accountability” which can only be measured by big, nationwide testing programs are turning education into a race.
Hence, when I read my invitation, the first thing I thought was that Korea is aiming for what we had a generation ago. Dinosaur as I am, I would have to be an expert in Korea. I accepted their invitation! Here is the way my speech is being introduced (the translation is less than perfect):
Dr. Grauer will:
ㅇ Look at the current situation and effects of the teaching methods and practices in “small schools” as distinguished from other types of education.
ㅇ Look at what opportunities can the meaning of the “Small Schools Movement” and the student-focused Happiness Education provide for Seoul education through the example of success of The Grauer School.
I hope you will wish me luck in Seoul. These days, Korea, in test scores, always ranks first or second in educational achievement in the world, so the United States policy makers love to study what they do. While I am in Korea, I will be met by Dr. Lee Hyeong Eung, Head Researcher at the Seoul National University Happiness Research Center.
If only those U.S. policy makers would find out that while our researchers are studying Korea, Korea is busy studying what The Grauer School does! I try to keep a light heart about this all. Naturally, I know there is pain and poverty all over the world. And yet, I believe this: Happiness is far more than an indulgence of the privileged—it is something inside our minds that we all deserve to strive for and hold among our highest aspirations. Thank goodness for The Grauer School, bastion of balanced education, a place where we can hold happiness and “a merry heart” as legitimate and worthy goals in the face of history’s trends and politics.
Originally posted at http://www.grauerschool.com/2013/news/stuarts-blog/happiness-seoul-2013/