Teachers as facilitators of student flourishing in positive education: What are the political implications?

Kristján Kristjánsson*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


Martin Seligman's (Flourish: a visionary new understanding of happiness and well-being. Free Press, New York, 2011) book Flourish set the agenda for the cluster of ideas that is now coagulating into the world movement of positive education. In this book, Seligman argues that all good (positive!) education needs to be education for flourishing. To prevent some initial misunderstandings, two observations are in order about the new paradigm of flourishing in education. First, it must not be confounded with an earlier well-being paradigm, at the close of the twentieth century, of the emotionally vulnerable child, which essentially psychologized, therapeutized and instrumentalized student well-being through initiatives such as the self-esteem and emotional-intelligence movements (see a trenchant critique in Ecclestone K, Hayes D, Oxford Rev Educ 35(3):371-389, 2009). In contrast, the flourishing paradigm takes a strength-based approach to student well-being; it is all about furthering assets that students already possess in nascent forms and helping them continue to develop the character virtues that are intrinsically related to (i.e. constitutive of) Eudaimonia (Walker DI, Roberts MP, Kristjansson K, Educ Rev 67(1):79-96, 2015). This fact should allay the fears of traditionalists that the flourishing paradigm is just one more attempt to smuggle a Trojan horse of touchy- feeliness into the classroom in order to undermine standard subjects and processes. A second, but related, observation is that although the flourishing paradigm is sometimes connected to, or even equated with, a focus on the 'whole child' - a focus motivated by discontent with the current school system's one-sided emphasis on grade attainment - education for flourishing is supposed to include traditional subject knowledge and other practical benefits of a well-rounded education. It is not meant to supplant anything (except perhaps the obsession with high-stakes testing), but rather to enhance and add new layers to already existing school practices.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationFuture Directions in Well-Being
Subtitle of host publicationEducation, Organizations and Policy
PublisherSpringer International Publishing
Number of pages4
ISBN (Electronic)9783319568898
ISBN (Print)9783319568881
Publication statusPublished - 16 Jun 2017

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© The Anglican Church of Australia Collegiate School of Saint Peter trading as St Peter's College 2017. All rights reserved.


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