A reading response to Happiness and Education by Nell Noddings
By: Pashew Majeed
To Zhila Xan, with the hope of an education filled with happiness and felicity
A moment ago* after a long time waiting, my friend Sangar texted me saying that her daughter Zhila is just born. For a moment I couldn’t believe what was going under my eyes reading those few words in the text, I was so happy and that undefinable feeling was too strong for tears couldn’t bear it and gave themselves up to drop. For a moment I was still under the impression and then I called the brand-new father to know what was happening there. This was surprisingly interesting as I had just finished reading Happiness and education by Nell Noddings wondering what is it there making me feel so badly happy for another one’s happiness? Despite there being several reasons as a personal explanation to it but I instantly recalled the quote Noddings made in her book saying that “our own happiness cannot be complete if people around us are unhappy” (2003, p.222).
It’s a cultural act rooted in religion for that to happen in my country, I mean a baby is just born. The father or a close relative would distribute cookies and sweeties among people. Currently this beautiful act is fading. It’s very interesting to reflect upon and wonder why they would do so. They are happy and they do not act selfish but rather selfless to share the beauty and the serenity it gives. They feel sweet and taste it so they want others feel the same by giving them something sweet to eat. The need of community and mutuality is necessary for a happy life. And how does that relate to education, is to teach it. Teaching the mutual understanding from the very simple act of getting the students together in their study and helping out the works in a communal intimacy among the students themselves.
Being satisfied and your needs to be met identifies your happiness (Noddings, 2003, p.57). Living a life means striving to attain the necessities and gain the provision to survive. Needs need to be differentiated with wants, needs are obligatory maintaining them means to survive but wants might be temporary and achieving them may change something or abandoning them may not cause any shortcomings. If education and literacy are seen as needs, a need that is expressed not only inferred, so the hope of parents and educator will be those needs be expressed so that the kids feel a need to be literate and to read (p.60).
Knowing if there is a sense of need in education that makes us as parents and educators try to maintain those need of our kids but prior for that to happen is the realization of those needs. Knowing what we need might loosen on us the guilt we have. The guilt that is the product of the conflict between civilization and instinct and the price we pay for it is our happiness (Noddings, 2003, p.69). So, to realize those needs is the very first step towards taking a means taking us to happiness. As Noddings suggests that this happens among adults that there times where they do not know what they need, and that is when parents or educator impose on them those needs (p.69).
The entire attempt of Noddings in the book was to make happiness a goal or an aim in education. I can’t reference it exactly but there is a quote by Steve McCurry goes like “happiness is not the destination, it is the way” and I think it is true in the sense that we can’t put happiness as an end or an aim all our life striving to achieve it, then one may ask, well, what about the way? Or what if the way was too long? What if we put our lives in achieving it? Even Noddings at the beginning of chapter four mentions this by quoting from Orwell that “happiness cannot be achieved by aiming at it” (p.74) if not we will be very busy fighting all our lives targeting happiness to get. In fact I think we need to practice happiness on daily basis and we need to think this through and figure out a way which by we can practice happiness and make it sustainable. We need to provide way outs and methods for an education be a practice of man’s happiness, and that kids leaving the school building with a smile on their face. Unfortunately it isn’t.
Interestingly enough is the way the author wrote the title. She put it like Happiness and Education not Education and Happiness, which makes me think that for her education is a means or a tool for man to be happy. So, we aren’t trying to make education out ultimate goal or put everything for its sake even if it is our happiness. An education with a shallow core and empty but rather the education is means or a way out for us to get somewhere else, which for Nodding’s case is the happiness land.
Most of the time my brothers and sisters at school calling me and saying they have got that much mark and their grade is in a very good condition and so and so forth. I know for them this is considered happiness but this happiness is in the aftermath of so much pain, and tiring and sadden efforts, this is what McCurry called the way. Now if my sisters weren’t happy doing their study, when they were on the way, it doesn’t justify their being happy at the end is what it is called happiness but rather they should have been experiencing happiness all the way back from the beginning so far. In response to them despite showing that I am happy just like they are, but I was adding that grades do not do anything to you if it doesn’t add anything in your values that causes happiness of him or herself, Mom and Dad and then the family in general.
The row materials according to Noddings that are applicable and possible for schools, teachers and educators to use in any educational houses, after we have decided and agreed that happiness is our goal in what we do, can be found in teaching for home making, spirituality and its relation to character, nature and love of place, parenting, democracy, communality and service, and responsibility.
Noddings, Nell. (2003). Happiness and education. Cambridge, UK: The University of Cambridge.
*The article was written on February the 12th, 2014.