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The Happy Child: Changing the Heart of Education [Kindle Edition]

Steven Harrison
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)

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Book Description

Children naturally want to learn, Steven Harrison asserts in The Happy Child, so let them direct their own education—in democratic learning communities, where they can interact seamlessly with their neighborhoods, their towns, and the world at large. Part social critic, part humanistic visionary, Harrison not only describes a reorientation of education, but the possibility of rethinking our families, communities, and workplaces, and ultimately what gives our children—and all of us—real happiness.

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Product Description


In his thought-provoking new book, the author ventures far outside the box of traditional thinking about education. His radical proposal? Children naturally want to learn, so let them direct their own education in democratic learning communities where they can interact seamlessly with their neighbourhoods, their towns, and the world at large. Most learning systems apply external motivation through grades, rankings, teacher direction, and approval. 'The Happy Child' suggests that a self-motivated child who is interdependent within a community can develop the full human potential to live a creative and fulfilling life. Harrison focuses on the integration of the whole child, the learning environment, and the non-coercive spirit of curiosity-driven education. With practical suggestions, Harrison details how to provide a living and responsive environment that can meet the expanding mind of a child-an environment that is non-coercive, democratic, and relationship-based. A child can thrive in a model where all participants view the child as an interdependent individual in the community-an individual who is both expressive and fully responsible.

A happy child will flourish with an education that recognises that the child is already fully expressive and relating to life. And a happy child, the author, asserts, is at the core of a truly functional and creative society.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 340 KB
  • Print Length: 131 pages
  • Publisher: Sentient Publications; 1 edition (15 Oct. 2002)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
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  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #1,371,721 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Steven Harrison with this book extrapolates his investigation into education and more: He starts with how we inherited the current educational system and how the educational system is moulding children's minds to the tune of ideas, dogmas and usefulness as percieved by the society; He argues vehemently how the customer, the children/student is never asked what they want, in turn it is assumed by the educators what the customer requires; The children in turn never end up realizing their true potential/passion and in turn end up becoming Parents keeping the vicious cycle alive; The current system also fails to understand the nature of reality, the extensive impact of virtual reality on children's mind and the impact of the infomation age, this in turn results in an inadequate response by the existing education system to the challenges faced by the society as a whole; He argues for a paradigm shift from what we all collectively view as education to a holistic education that reponds to the children's potential, passion and interests resulting in a healthy and a productive society.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.3 out of 5 stars  9 reviews
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This is a very eye-opening book! 26 Dec. 2002
By A Customer - Published on
This is one of the most radical books I've read on education, because it thoroughly questions the ideas we hold as a society about what education is and what it's good for. As products of traditional education ourselves, most of us tend to just accept the basic tenets of it. Harrison examines the notion that there is a body of information and skills that everyone should learn in school. He asks how useful this approach really is, whether it prepares us adequately for our lives, whether we end up retaining or using much of the information we labor so hard to acquire, and whether it contributes anything to our happiness. In its place, he proposes a very different model for what education can be, which he developed through the process of starting a school. I've observed myself that nearly all the high school and college students I talk to have very little idea of what they want to do with their lives--their education does not help them with this basic question. The model discussed in The Happy Child would do a much better job of helping kids find this out. I highly recommend this book to anyone who cares about the state of education in our country.
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Offensive but thought provoking 5 July 2008
By A Teacher - Published on
All of the derogatory remarks about teachers and the education system in the first half of the book left me feeling a little beat up and misunderstood. I know that our system isn't perfect, however, I hope that his impression of the American classroom is not the norm. After trudging through the first few chapters, I was relieved to find that Harrison shared some interesting ideas. I appreciate some of what he said about testing, however I think his vision for education would require an impossible nationwide utopia filled with parents who make their children top priority (which would be great).
I think he might could have gotten his ideas across more effectively with less of an attack at the beginning. (More flies with honey). He seemed pretty proud that his book is not researched based but maybe he should have visited a few more schools and investigated what good teachers try to do despite the confines of test prep. I also think adults have a more vital role in the guidance and teaching of children than what much of his book seemed to imply.
It made me angry, then it made me think. In the end, it reminded me to make sure to provide activities where students can be more involved in exploring interests, got me thinking about real world learning opportunities and student involvement in the school district. It also made me proud of our kids who lobbied the school board and helped form the district's no tobacco policy and my last art project which allowed students to learn about and create mini-galleries of their favorite artist and art works. I wonder how many schools would actually fit into his stereotype.
I believe that any professional development conference or book is not a waste if you can get at least one good and useful thing from it, however I didn't give many stars because I think the view of today's education presented is skewed and bleak and I think he asks the impossible. Over all, reading this book was a good experience, not because I agree with Mr. Harrison, but because it helped me think out what I believe is true and important about what I have to offer as a teacher and about the system of which I am a part.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Harrison questions the reason for education 28 Sept. 2003
By A Customer - Published on
Harrison believes that the purpose of education is happiness, not "to get a good job." In The Happy Child, Harrison challenges our beliefs about education, why it exists, and what children really deserve from it. Harrison exposes how schools educate through fear and stamp out children's curiosity and creativity.
This is one of the best books I have read on why we need to change our system of education. It is thought-provoking and should start many heated debates. Harrison asks many questions about our schools, our society, and what is really important.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Absolutely must-read for all parents, educators, politicians, and public citizens 25 Aug. 2007
By Timothy Conway - Published on
This is a terrific book, a tour-de-force, with quotable quotes on every page, indeed, almost every paragraph. Harrison thoroughly points out the abject and increasingly dangerous failures of the bulk of our present educational system (which terribly stresses out and disappoints most students, teachers and parents and weakens the real power of our economy), and also the tremendous *promise* of developing a system of true learning, true education--leading out of ignorance (such as Harrison and his colleagues have experimented with at The Living School in Boulder, Colorado, and which has been successfully developed by numerous other private schools and some public schools). This newer system, as Harrison sees it, invites and evokes the learning potential of both youngsters and adults, a shared learning situation in which "the educator is no where to be found" [i.e., as an outside agent imposing knowledge on youngsters] (p. 21).

Along the way, Harrison explores issues of discipline problems, the inherent problems of a fear-based approach, the intensifying testing mania, the natural way of promoting children's intrinsic curiosity, the soundness and beauty of non-coercive learning, the vast importance of a spirituality of inquiry, and the need for adults working with children to be "masters" of one or more areas of life so as to be inspiring exemplars and living invitations for the children's own growth in excellence.

Harrison asks all the right questions, scores of them, throughout this easily-read, always-engaging text. For instance, "Our educational system, like our economy, is set up to create a product. The product is a worker in industry. This is its historic purpose.... But is this system producing a worker for the post-modern information age or is it producing a vistigial, useless remainder from the past? Is an industrial worker what we need at this point, or does something else need to be engendered by our educational system? On a practical level, is a person who is taught not to think, but to jam information in and push information out, valued in our contemporary society? The children we are teaching today will be in their adulthood in a decade or two. In that world, the world of twenty years from now, will a child who has been filled with information--not even contemporary information, but information from a decade or two ago--be skilled, functional, prized?... Computers will be doing it better.... It is not information that will be useful, but the ability to understand how to utilize it.... [In the future,] [w]hat will be far more important than yesterday's factoids is the relationship our children will have to the then-existing systems of information. A child who is given the chance to explore and investigate the sources of information, the meaning of information, the utility of information, and the skills of manipulating and crafting information will be able to move fluidly into this future. The irony is obvious. Children explore information in this way naturally and are interrupted only by the harshest of measures: being taken to schools, made to sit still, made to stop talking, made to listen and remember bits of information.... Is it any wonder that children often feel disconnected?" (pp. 7-8)

"The essence of the learning community is the recognition that we can all, young and old, share the open investigation of our world in whatever way and with whatever capacity we have. That relationship of open learning also happens to be a relationship of great happiness." (pp. ix-x)

"We continue to teach information when that game is already over.... Education itself is obsolete but is ignorant of that fact. It needs to be educated. Meanwhile, the creativity, the exploration, the inquiry of our young are, like Socrates, being metaphorically executed by the powerful structures of our societal paradigm for asking too many questions." (p. 103)

"It is not that a child doesn't have something to learn from adults, but how that learning takes place is critical. It is practically enough if adults don't destroy the child; the rest is the child's to discover." (p. 107)

Throughout his book, Harrison provides persuasive arguments and examples of how this superior system of true learning can function in the real world of children and adults.

In the mid-1970s I was deeply moved by reading the works of J. Krishnamurti on authentic education to go get a teaching credential at San Francisco State Univ., but what i saw first hand in the public schools convinced me that there is a far better way to educate our children. Harrison's voice on children's authentic learning (and adults as companions in the learning process) is a worthy sequel to the voice of Krishnamurti (who has greatly influenced Harrison in his several books on spiritual inquiry).

Readers interested in this topic might also want to read of similarly revolutionary and successful approaches to learning explored in the early 19th century by the father of transcendentalism, Bronson Alcott.

Together, the voices of Alcott, Krishnamurti, Harrison and others (e.g., Rudolf Steiner of Anthroposophy, inspiration for the Waldorf schools) invite us to approach our educational relationship with children and ourselves in an entirely different and far more fruitful way.

Read Harrison's *The Happy Child* for an eloquent manifesto on the future of our children's learning, which in very real, pragmatic ways, is our future as well--for if we don't have passionate, dedicated workers and inventive creators functioning in our future economy, there will not be sufficient public revenues to fund Social Security or help maintain our society's institutions and infrastructure in the coming decades as we Baby Boomers and other adults grow older.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Easy fast read on alternative education 2 May 2006
By M. Carlin - Published on
I have read many books about democratic and free school education. This one was so captivating that I read it in one sitting. He presents a very persuasive argument for child directed and community based schooling. Inspiring.
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