To be Happy, is to be Educated

By Pashew Majeed:Happiness and Education cover

Twitter: @pashewmajeed

A reading response to ‘Happiness and Education’ by Nel Noddings

To Zhila Xan, with the hope of an education filled with happiness and felicity

A moment ago* after a long time waiting, my friend Sangar texted me saying that her daughter Zhila is just born. For a moment I couldn’t believe what was happening under my eyes reading those few words. I was so happy and that undefinable feeling was too strong for tears which couldn’t bear it and gave themselves up to drop. Then I called the brand-new father to know what was happening. This was interesting as I had just finished reading Happiness and Education by Nell Noddings and was wondering what is it that is making me feel so badly happy for another’s happiness? Despite there being several reasons by way of personal explanation, I instantly recalled a quote from Noddings in in her book: “…our own happiness cannot be complete if people around us are unhappy” (2003, p.222).

It’s a cultural act rooted in religion for this to happen in my country; I mean a baby is not just born. The father or a close relative would distribute cookies and sweeties among people. Currently this beautiful act is fading. It’s very interesting to reflect upon and wonder why they would do so. They are happy and they do not act selfishly but rather selflessly to share the beauty and the serenity it gives. They feel sweet and taste it so they want others feel the same by giving them something sweet to eat. The sense of community and mutuality is necessary for a happy life. And how this relates to education, is to teach it: teaching the mutual understanding that arises from the simple act of getting the students together in their study to help each other out with their work in a communal intimacy among the students themselves.

Being satisfied and having your needs met identifies your happiness (Noddings, 2003, p.57). Living a life means striving to attain the necessities and gain the provisions to survive. Needs need to be differentiated from wants: needs are obligatory and maintaining them means to survive; wants may be temporary and achieving them might change something or abandoning them may not cause any shortcomings. If education and literacy are seen as needs, a need that is expressed and not only inferred, so the hope of parents and educators will be that those needs be will expressed so that the kids feel a need to be literate and to read (p.60).

Knowing if there is a sense of need in education makes us as parents and educators try to maintain those needs of our kids but, prior and for this to happen, is the realization of those needs. Knowing what we need might reduce the guilt we have; the guilt that is the product of the conflict between civilization and instinct and this is the price we pay for our happiness (Noddings, 2003, p.69). So, to realize those needs is the very first step towards doing what takes us to happiness. As Noddings suggests, with kids there are times when they do not know what they need, and that is when parents or educator impose on them those needs (p.69).

The focus of Noddings’ book is to make happiness a goal or an aim in education. I can’t reference it exactly but there is a quote by Steve McCurry that goes something like, “happiness is not the destination, it is the way” and I think this is true in the sense that we can’t put happiness as an end or an aim that we spend all our life striving to achieve. Then one might ask, well, what about the way? Or what if the way was too long? What if we sacrifice our lives in achieving it? Noddings, at the beginning of chapter four, mentions this by quoting from Orwell that, “happiness cannot be achieved by aiming at it” (p.74) – otherwise we will be very busy fighting all our lives targeting happiness to get. In fact I think we need to practice happiness on a daily basis and we need to think this through and figure out a way by which we can practice happiness and make it sustainable. We also need to find ways and methods for education to become a practice of happiness, so that kids leave the school building with smiles on their faces. Unfortunately it isn’t.

The way the author wrote the title is interesting: Happiness and Education, not Education and Happiness, which makes me think that, for her, education should be a means or a tool for man to be happy. So, we aren’t trying to make education our ultimate goal or sacrifice everything for its sake, even our happiness. An education with a shallow core is empty but rather education can be the means or way for us to get somewhere else which, for Noddings, is the happiness land.

Most of the time, my brothers and sisters at school call me and say they have got so many marks and their grades are very good and so on. I know for them this is considered happiness but this happiness is the aftermath of so much pain, of tiring and saddening efforts, and this is what McCurry called the way. Now if my sisters weren’t happy during their study, when they were on the way, their feeling happy at the end does not justify their not experiencing happiness all along the way. I would add that grades do not do anything for one if they doesn’t add anything to one’s values which can create happiness for oneself, one’s parents and the family in general.

According to Noddings, the raw materials that all schools, teachers and educators can use – after we have agreed that happiness in what we are doing is our goal – lie in teaching home making, spirituality and its relation to character, nature and love of place, parenting, democracy, communality and service, and responsibility.


Noddings, Nel. (2003). Happiness and Education. Cambridge, UK: The University of Cambridge

*The article was written on 12th February 2014

2 Responses to To be Happy, is to be Educated
  1. Kuvan Bamarny
    March 19, 2014 | 12:17

    To be happy is to be free and to have peace of mind and privacy.Education comes next.

  2. kurd
    March 19, 2014 | 18:31

    education is not a thing that makes people and happiness are generally different
    from each other.there are many educated people!,but they are not happy and they are not bacically learned men as well.
    according to Freud whatever our life progress we will be more unhappy… I deeply believe that happiness that is,
    we live without pain and suffering,however, this is a negative pleasure and is live with an epicurean position…
    but I agree with that…
    finally,you should have written your article with this topic: who much knows more suffers

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