That “Educators should be entrepreneurs of happiness and well-being” is so obviously true to me that it is almost a self-evident axiom. Yet almost one almost never hears even the tiniest inkling of such a notion in either public debates on education nor in the world of academic research on education. Am I crazy?
Today I finished reading Dunn, Gilbert, and Wilson’s article (which I previously mentioned here), “If money doesn’t make you happy, then you probably aren’t spending it right.” The article is a summation of consumer research that shows that people are typically made happier by:
1. Buying experiences rather than things.
2. Helping others rather than helping oneself (give gifts to friends and to charity).
3. Buying many small pleasures rather than a few big ones.
4. Buy less insurance (most losses turn out not to make much of a difference over the long haul).
5. Pay now and consume later (anticipation is great, immediate gratification is not so good, debt is not helpful).
6. Think about what you’re not thinking about (often people fantasize that x, y, or z would make their life better, but if they really thought about the reality of x, y, or z they would realize that it really wouldn’t).
7. Beware of comparison shopping (one might say beware of shopping in general).
8. Follow the herd instead of your head (this is the one I disagree with as a general principle, but there are certainly cases where the opinions of others are valuable in making decisions, as their example illustrates).
Over all, after reading it I find that they are way more focused on the relationship between consumption and happiness than I would be – but that is to be expected from an article in “The Journal of Consumer Psychology.”
But the great thing about creating a market in education is that thousands of educational entrepreneurs can create their own mixes of habits, attitudes, experiences, etc. in a competitive attempt to create the greatest foundation for happiness and well-being for young people. Some would focus on flow, some on meaning, some on optimizing consumer pleasures (as described in the article above), some on relationships, some on religion, some on physical fitness and diet, some on intellectual pleasures, some on vocational fitness, some on a sense of inner peace or cultural integrity, etc. And over time we would see deep and sophisticated blends of different approaches to happiness.
What makes all of this so difficult to understand? Why don’t others see it as important?