Forget Gillard school halls - how about wellness centres?
Yet again, Mr Rudd has announced plans for his lame My School website in the name of lifting the standards of all Australian schools. And yet again, he’s missed the boat with his scheme to publicise next month’s National Assessment Program Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN) tests. If he was really serious about improving the educational lot of all young people, he’d take the lead of Australia’s most prestigious learning institution: Geelong Grammar.
Doing its best in its quest to bridge the ever widening gap between the educational haves and have-nots, Grammar recently opened a $16 million ‘wellness’ facility - humbly described on the school’s website as “an exciting new direction in education, building confidence, optimism and success in young people”. Thank god. This sort of service couldn’t have come soon enough to some of the most advantaged elites in our community.
Students of Australia’s richest learning establishment finally have access to two indoor courts, a 25 metre heated pool, large gymnasium with a weights room, ergometers, aerobics and dance areas, teaching spaces, a café, health information areas with online resources, a nine-bed medical facility, and doctors’ consultation rooms.
The Handbury Centre is based on the field of “positive psychology” and, in particular, the philosophy of its principal authority, Professor Martin Seligman. He was hired as a paid consultant by Grammar to advise on the development of the new facility.
Seligman’s warm and toasty, middle-class view of psychology is that it should concentrate on building people’s strengths rather than “fixing people once they are sick”. What insight – helping the ‘worried well’ build on their already considerable advantage.
But apparently Seligman - philosopher king that he is - has had the radical idea that it’s not only elites that could benefit from having their optimism levels adjusted. The Professor’s utopian vision would hopefully see the ‘wellness’ model of psychology become universally available, especially to the less fortunate among us.
What if the Government adopted the idea of wellness facilities as part of its Education Revolution - a policy which they claim is also aimed at empowering the disadvantaged? After all, Seligman’s “visionary” approach is based on twenty years of rigorous research which revealed, among other paradigm-shifting insights, that people who are optimistic are – wait for it – “less depressed” and “have better relationships with other people”.
Now who would have guessed that people who are optimistic “perform better in work, school and sports”?
On that basis, it’s a no-brainer that people on the fringes of society who experience appalling rates of inter-generational poverty and violence, need their “success drivers” enhanced.
So instead of covered outdoor learning areas, let’s stick wellness centres in all our under-resourced public schools. Of course, the Government mightn’t be able to access the well-remunerated Seligman to oversee the implementation of this ambitious project, nor the money to fund it, which would leave our State schools to raise the majority of the necessary capital on their own.
But that’s just a minor point when we’re talking about the potential for achieving every democracy’s hope: for success and happiness to be within the reach of us all.
So some life advice to underprivileged pessimists: time you did your bit to improve your lot. Embrace the practice of positive psychology – because, let’s face it, you don’t have much to lose.
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