There he was, a young boy dressed in a baggy hoodie and jeans, with a beanie covering his shoulder-length hair. He was there to teach us all a valuable lesson about happiness. “If you ask a little kid (what they want to be when they grow up), sometimes you’ll get the best answer, something so simple, so obvious and really profound. When I grow up, I want to be happy,” said 13-year-old Logan LaPlante during his captivating and entertaining Tedx talk. LaPlante goes on to tell the audience how he ‘hacked’ his education. His parents took him out of traditional school at the age of nine, and since then, he’s been taking advantage of the various opportunities in his community to enhance his learning. Why did Logan decide to do this? School didn’t focus on making him happy and creative. It focused on making him employable.
Like your average teen, Logan still studies maths, science and history, but he studies them with a twist. Instead of learning about a famous historical figure from a textbook, he got involved in a programme where he had to study a historical figure, act him out on stage and answer any question the audience may have about that character. It’s quite an unorthodox way of learning but it’s what makes him happy. Obviously this kind of ‘hack schooling,’ as he calls it, may not be the answer for all kids to get a better and happier education; it takes a lot of commitment from both the children and the parents. But Logan poses one question that we all need to reflect on: “Education is important. But why is being happy and healthy not considered education, I just don’t get it.”
I don’t get it either. Recently, headlines on the topic of education have been circling around the issue of curriculum and education reforms. Ever since the latest PISA results were announced earlier this year, governments have been fretting over how to get to the top of the league table. One example is the United Kingdom’s education minister, Elizabeth Truss, who has made various visits to Shanghai to find out their secret to high maths scores. There has been a huge controversy over plans to make Britain’s school system more rigorous and test oriented. The irony however, is that while countries with lower PISA scores aim to overhaul their education systems to make them more test oriented, countries like China and Singapore, known to constantly top the PISA league tables, are starting to head in the completely opposite direction, partly because of the social problems that have arisen from the countries’ obsession with tests and education. The very people that are the envy of Western education experts are realising that there needs to be a balance between academic achievement and happiness.
So while some are learning from the pitfalls of their education systems and trying to foster more happiness and creativity in their curriculum, others are still adamant on putting letter grades over the happiness of children. I’m not suggesting having children play in sandboxes throughout their schooling years, but why can’t we focus on creating a healthy balance between work and happiness rather than trying to point our education systems to either extreme? One thing that Logan teaches not just generation Y, but all other generations, is that when it comes to education, you can have your cake and eat it.