Wangdue Phodrang: Happiness

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On the way to Trongsa, we stopped in at a primary school in a small town along the way. Despite the admonishment to dress appropriately, we invited ourselves in (politely!) for a visit.

Wangdue Phodrang 2

The buildings were beautifully constructed, the administration wonderfully accommodating, and the students…well…polite of course. Out on the basketball court, a class was widely and evenly dispersed to take a test: that way there was no cheating. I walked into one class managing without a teacher that day and noone was acting out at all. They were all studying. Seeing that they were busy with math, I walked up to the blackboard and whipped off some completely incorrect equations in an effort to get them riled up, but noone took the bait. I’m sure they now believe that foreigners do not understand math. Lately though, and I did not admit a word of this to them, I lie awake at night trying to remember how to solve differential equations…I can’t for the life of me remember how to do it.

Math Test! (On the basketball court in order to prevent cheating)

Math Test! (On the basketball court in order to prevent cheating)

The principal acknowledged that 45 people in a single class was difficult on the teachers, but this far from a significant town it was difficult to recruit more of them. Class in any case, is still taught as a sage on stage affair, the internet and alternative teaching methodologies not yet making an impact. The computer lab did not have internet access. What interested me the most was the focus on Gross National Happiness. While we didn’t get any insight on the impact it had on lesson plans, the prominent signage suggested it was taken very seriously.

I wonder if, instead of the Pledge of Allegiance or perhaps on top of it, we had our American kids take a minute every day to consider Happiness…what would happen to our collective national neuroses. It makes me wonder, actually, what the point of all our teaching actually is. Are we interested only in making productive workers and steadfast warriors? Are we interested in developing contented adults? Is there actually even room for Happiness in our national agenda, or are we only interested in the pursuit of it…Happiness being that bus that never seems to notice you chasing after it…exhausted, burdened, desperate to catch the ride…but keeping you running. I suspect deep down that the Puritan spine of the American psyche disapproves entirely of happiness, or at least has its suspicions: equating it with extravagance, or sloth.

Concise breakdown of Gross National Happiness

Concise breakdown of Gross National Happiness

Do contented nations meddle with neighbors and antagonize strangers? Of course, you say: Happily!

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