School and Happiness

August 21, 2007 1 min read

How shocked would you be to learn that school and watching television rank the same among activities that make young people most happy in life? In a survey by MTV and the Associated Press, few 13- to 24-year-olds identified school or TV (or sex or cars, for that matter) as the key to their happiness.

Maybe we should be relieved that, instead, the respondents said they are most happy spending time with family and friends, playing with pets, worshiping God, and playing sports. About half of those surveyed described at least one of their parents as a hero (5 percent gave their teacher that title), and just under half said that family time and relationships make them happier than anything else.

That’s enough to spell hope for a generation that is generally painted as apathetic and detached from older folks.

The findings are mixed, however. Although a number of the respondents said that success and work were important, school and homework (and bad grades) all ranked among the things that make young people most unhappy.

I guess we should expect as much. How many teens are enthusiastic about getting up early to catch the school bus or find happiness in studying for the next science quiz?

Yet 43 percent of respondents said they are happy or somewhat happy with their schools (while 24 percent indicated they were not in school at the time of the survey).

What about the rest, though? Twenty percent expressed indifference about school, and 13 percent were unhappy or very unhappy.

How can we make schools more engaging and fulfilling for more youths? Is it important that students be happy with school?

A version of this news article first appeared in the Motivation Matters blog.