Wellington College, the school that has pioneered the teaching of happiness in the UK and worldwide, today launches its 10-point programme for developing well-being.
The programme is to be followed by all its pupils and staff (teaching and support) and it is being sent to all its parents, Governors and alumni. The 10-point programme is a succinct distillation of what is taught in the ‘skills of well-being’ (colloquially known as ‘happiness’) lessons at Wellington College, developed in collaboration with the Well-Being Institute at the the University of Cambridge.
“‘Happiness’ is the contemporary buzzword,” said Dr Anthony Seldon, Master of Wellington College. “Every media outlet is discussing whether it should be an objective of government policy and whether it can be taught. It can be and must be, in our opinion.The 10-point programme encapsulates what every single child and adult needs to follow if they are to make the very most of their lives. I would encourage every individual to read this simple plan and apply it.”
Ian Morris, director of the well-being programme at Wellington College, said: “Having taught well-being lessons since last year, I’ve been struck by students’ enthusiasm and their lack of scepticism. They have responded really well to the lessons and are beginning to practise outside the classroom the techniques they have been learning. “
Two things strike me about this. Firstly, the idea that science can arrive at some definitive ten point programme, a sort of scientific ten commandments of happiness, which every child and adult ‘needs to follow’ if they are to reach happiness. Says who? Does Anthony Seldon, no doubt an intelligent person, really think that science has finally proven, after thousands of years, the one sure path to happiness? This is naive scientific fundamentalism.
Secondly, I’m struck that Ian Morris, the teacher of wellbeing, welcomes the students’ ‘lack of scepticism’. Is that really to be welcomed, in a class that teaches wellbeing? Is lack of scepticism really what we want to be cultivating in our children?
Socrates taught people how to be happy, but the first step in that path was precisely teaching them how to be sceptical, how to question conventional ideas, and how to hold their own and other people’s beliefs to rational account. This course, by contrast, sounds like spoon-feeding. Don’t question it, kids. It’s science.