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David Baxter

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Lessons in Happiness 'Could Fuel Depression'
September 10, 2007
Daily Mail

LESSONS in happiness risk turning children into depressed and selfobsessed under-achievers, a damning report claims.

Ministers have ordered schools to introduce the classes to improve well-being and reduce bad behaviour.

But research drawing on 20 studies condemns the approach as 'dangerous' and warns it could backfire by fuelling depression.

It could also blunt children's creative edge by placing too great an emphasis on avoiding hurting the feelings of others.

Evidence from the U.S. suggests such classes could cause academic standards to fall, claims the report from the charity the Centre for Confidence and Well-being.

One of the themes children are required to follow is headed 'Good to be me' in primary schools and 'Learning about me' in secondaries.

'Encourages narcissism'
However a 'self-esteem' movement in the U.S. 20 years ago led to children receiving unwarranted praise and avoiding competition with peers.

'Since the ideas from the self-esteem movement gained currency in American education, their standards have dropped,' said the report by psychology expert Carol Craig.

'The focus on the self and feelings can easily encourage narcissism and self-obsession, thereby undermining young people's well-being,' Schools Secretary Ed Balls announced an extension of the social and emotional aspects of learning (SEAL) programme last week.

But the report warns the personality type it is attempting to create is that of a 'nice girl' who gives compliments and doesn't hurt anyone's feelings.

It says: ' "Sticks and stones" is arguably a better philosophy for fostering resilience than encouraging young people to think that hurt feelings must be avoided at all costs.' A spokesman for Mr Balls insisted SEAL works. 'Teachers who have used it are generally very positive,' he said..
 

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