Tuesday, May 10, 2011


In Ms. Mazaheri’s 4th grade class today, we wondered together about happiness. After an initial exercise to get students thinking about two important skills in doing philosophy—listening actively and communicating clearly—I asked whether doing the exercise made them happy.

A. said that because the exercise was difficult and confusing that it didn’t make her happy. J. said that for him, because the exercise was challenging, and he overcame that challenge, it did make him happy.

“So what is happiness?” I wondered aloud. “Is it a thing?” J. said that it WAS a thing—a thing you feel. “So, is happiness an emotion?” I asked.

T. said that it was a feeling. So, what’s the difference between a feeling and an emotion? She elaborated: “a feeling is something you feel. An emotion is something that lasts longer. When I’m having fun, that’s a feeling. When I’m happy, that’s an emotion.”

I was fascinated by this distinction. “So what’s the difference between fun and happiness?” A. said that there wasn’t a difference. “Anytime you’re having fun, you’re happy,” she claimed.

X. didn’t buy that. “No way. In school, I can be happy, but if we’re doing something boring, that’s no fun.”

So, you can be happy, but not being having fun; can you be having fun and not be happy? A. had a great example: “My cousin failed in school; it was funny, but it made me unhappy for him.”

So, who’s happy now, I asked. Most of the kids raised their hands. How about fun? Who’s having fun? Almost all of them did.

Me, too.

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