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Carol Craig is the Centre's Chief Executive. She is author of The Scots' Crisis of Confidence, Creating Confidence: A Handbook for Professionals Working with Young People, The Tears that Made the Clyde: Well-being in Glasgow and The Great Takeover: How materialism, the media and markets now dominate our lives. Her latest book is Hiding in Plain Sight: Exploring Scotland's ill health. She is Commissioning editor for the Postcards from Scotland series. Carol blogs on confidence, well-being, inequality, every day life and some of the great challenges of our time. The views she expresses are her own unless she specifically states that they reflect the Centre's thinking.

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Posted 31/01/2009 | 1 Comment

I had a great morning yesterday at Bathgate Academy. Fiona Hyslop, and other guests, were there for the official opening of their Confucius Classroom hub. This is the  fourth of eight hubs being opened across Scotland which gives young people access to learning resources about Chinese culture. Learning and Teaching Scotland have been the brains behind a growing international educational exchange between Scotland and China. Some Scottish teachers, head teachers and pupils have been out to China to experience their culture and education system. Some are now learning Mandarin.

At the opening ceremony in Bathgate, pupils from the school or local area were involved in various cultural activities. Primary school children performed a ribbon dance, there was fantastic Scot-Chinese music and some pupils performed a Chinese story. One aspect of this particularly intrigued me. In this tale the young hero has to travel to a far off palace. He is advised by a good wife that he has to cross a stretch of land where he will be burned by fire and another where he will be blasted by icy water. On both occasions if he murmurs a word of complaint or protest he will immediately die. Of course, he manages to deal with the ordeals and all ends well.

Fast forward to contemporary times in the UK and the chances are that any young person facing an ordeal will be asked how they are feeling and the assumption will be from us adults that talking about it, and getting a chance to complain, is necessarily beneficial. Indeed as a result of SEAL young people in England will be taught that expressing your feelings is a good thing and may even be evaluated on it.

In today’s world the chances are that many adults will go out for their way to ensure that youngsters won't have any bad experiences to deal with. Many local authorities  in England have even banned the use of red pen in marking. Schools in Queensland, Australia have been warned that the colour can damage students psychologically.

I am doing some research on wisdom at present. So I was interested to learn that in the Berlin Aging Study those who had reported considerable hardship earlier in their lives were more likely to score high on the wisdom scale they were using.

Confucius said: ‘There are three methods to gaining wisdom. The first is reflection, which is the highest. The second is limitation, which is the easiest. The third is experience, which is the bitterest.’ I hope this is the type of learning that pupils will be exposed to in their new hubs.

Finally, I’ve now written a new paper on the new vogue for well-being in
schools called The Curious Case of the Tail Wagging the Dog.  It reiterates some of the arguments in my earlier SEAL paper but has lots of additional new material about happiness classes and whether there really is a rise in depression, particularly in young people.
Comment By Comment
Alex Smith

Comment Posted: 12/02/2009 16:17
None of us has any idea how long the present generation will live and the idea that the first person to live to one thousand has already been born may or may not be true. However, when I listen to the constant whinging of many of my younger acquaintances, I cannot imagine what living longer in such apparent misery will be like.

This train of thought came from thinking of my mother-in-law who died last week at the age of 97. Her father was seriously injured in the First World War and never returned although he did not die until 1919. Her mother (my wife's grandmother) took her family back to Ireland where she had come from and they were subjected to serious abuse from locals because she was in receipt of a British Army War Widow's Pension. After her family returned to Scotland, my mother-in-law met and married my wife's father and had three children. The oldest died aged two and the youngest has Down's Syndrome. My wife, Margaret, is the only one to have lived what might be considered a normal life. Finally my father-in-law died twenty years ago after fighting cancer for more than three years.

You might think this tale is almost like something from Monty Python. What further tragedy can we pile on? And yet, my mother-in-law was one of the happiest women I ever met. Although towards the end her mind had wandered off to its own wee world, she remained a joy to be with. And all this without SEAL, Social Education, psychoanalysys, Prozac, etc. She developed the internal strength to cope with all the misfortunes that life threw at her and taught everyone around her, by example, to try to do the same. The world needs more like her.
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