The Third Leader: Life class

Click to follow
The Independent Online

An apt subject for the day after the Easter break: happiness. Pupils at Wellington College are, we learn, to be taught it. Congratulations to Anthony Seldon, Wellington's head, for his initiative, but, perhaps because it is the day after the Easter break, optimism is elusive.

Even though Dr Seldon sells his idea well (he has, after all, written a biography of Tony Blair), arguing that children need to learn that happiness does not lie in celebrity and possessions, I foresee problems: ("What have we got next?" "Oh, NO. Happiness.")

Dr Seldon says the job of a school is to produce happy people; there is, however a weight of thought against the possibility, perhaps best expressed by a typically unchipper Wittgenstein: "I don't know why we are here, but I'm pretty sure that it is not in order to enjoy ourselves."

You can choose between the Christian belief that we are fallen people earning happiness elsewhere by our struggles here, or the view that we're naturally miserable because we began to think when terror and turmoil stalked the earth. Certainly, happiness is the odd one out of Darwin's six universal emotions (anger, fear, disgust, sadness and surprise will be well catered for in traditional subjects).

So: a tough job. When, exactly, do you break it to them that these are the happiest days of their lives? And what about keeping discipline in the Happiness class? A suggested sanction, inspired by the view of a former Wellington boy, Mr Orwell: "Smith Major! You will write out 200 times, 'Men can only be happy when they do not assume that the object of life is happiness'."

Comments