Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Well-Being - Spreading Optimism from the Battlefield to the Playground: News

Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Well-Being - Spreading Optimism from the Battlefield to the Playground: News

Article excerpt

US psychology guru touts army 'resilience' training for schools.

Psychological techniques that have been adopted by the US army to better prepare soldiers for the ravages of war should be taught in schools to build resilience in children, according to a leading academic.

Learning about "positive psychology" should become an integral part of teacher training and would have a marked impact on children's learning, said Martin Seligman, a psychologist at the University of Pennsylvania.

Dr Seligman, who has been studying the psychology of optimism for 20 years, was in the UK this week to participate in the Positive Education Summit. The event was hosted by Wellington College and attracted academics from Australia, China, Singapore and Mexico, as well as the US.

The delegates also visited 10 Downing Street to meet officials and to make the case for positive psychology to be incorporated across government policy, not just in education.

Student well-being, often dubbed "happiness lessons", is at the heart of Wellington College's curriculum. But Dr Seligman believes that the idea should go much further, with the state sector following the lead of Wellington and other private schools in the UK, US and Australia.

He also argues that learning the techniques should not be considered a soft option. Every month, 180 drill sergeants pass through Dr Seligman's university, taking an eight-day course in positive psychology. They then pass on what they have learned to recruits in a bid to cut the number of cases of post-traumatic stress disorder.

"The US army wanted to create an army that was as mentally fit as it was physically fit," Dr Seligman, director of the Positive Psychology Center, told TES.

"The research showed, if you have someone in the battalion who has had training in positive psychology, there is a much lower probability of soldiers developing drug problems or becoming suicidal as a result of post-traumatic stress disorder.

"(The army) provided $45 million (Pounds 28 million) for us to essentially do what we do in the school system, which is to teach teachers the techniques of positive psychology, who then teach the students."

Dr Seligman, a former president of the American Psychological Association, said there was "good evidence" that enhancing well-being led to improvements in children's learning. …

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