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Catherine Gobron Headshot

Happiness as a Priority

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Flickr: Clez
Flickr: Clez

Brené Brown's TED talks on wholehearted living have over one million views. As Brown says, "We are the most in-debt, obese, addicted and medicated adult cohort in U.S. history." Clearly there's an audience ready to hear messages of hope and personal change.

It's wonderful that so many adults are working to improve their lives. But why wait until you're grown up? Let's empower young people to create happiness and engagement in their lives now.

Many would support this idea. It sounds good. Yes, let's empower students to be happier and more engaged in their lives, as long as that means that they continue moving forward on the tracks we think are best for them.

It's easy to encourage students to do more of what we want them to do anyway, to thrive within the existing channels. But what about students who are not thriving within the existing channels? Are we ready to empower students to learn to seek happiness and engagement outside of traditional frameworks?

In a TEDx talk given by 13-year-old Logan LaPlante (see video below) he describes seeking happiness as the primary force behind his education. One might assume that given the choice, 13-year-olds will seek happiness in video games or other non-productive activities. This may be true in some moments, but fluff activities alone will not result in happiness. We know from research, like Brené Brown's, that happy people are engaged in meaningful work. In his talk, LaPlante describes the meaningful ways in which he spends his time, none of which include school.

LaPlante is an able and articulate young man. But he is also an average, normal kid. Average, normal kids are capable of living and learning without school, of seeking and finding meaningful ways to spend their time, of being happy. He clearly has resources available to him. But his greatest resource is the support of his parents and community. If young people have support (or even if they don't), they can make happiness a priority in their education and find meaningful ways to spend their time right now.