The Existential Non-Crisis on College Campuses
Humanities classes are happiness classes
The most popular class at Stanford is “Designing Your Life.” Among other things, it teaches students to “Take your work personally, but it’s not your person.” It launched in spring of 2010.
“The Science of Wellbeing” is the most popular Yale course of all time. It teaches students about “showing more gratitude, procrastinating less, increasing social connections.” It launched as “Psychology and the Good Life” in 2018.
So happiness pedantry abounds in academia. Meanwhile, the campus mental-health crisis is a slow-rolling one. But it’s always a crisis, by that name—never less dire, never more. Here’s the 2002 version of the crisis, the 2006 version, the 2009 version, the 2011 version, the 2013 version, the 2017 version, the 2021 version.
Happiness professors advance a range of theories about the causes and cures of the evergreen crisis. For instance, they used to warn against binge drinking. But, now that college drinking has gone down, they fault academic ambition. Their overachieving, unhappy students have evidently forfeited good habits, notably sleep. Lately, the classes teach students to take life easier, socialize more, nap more, have more fun.
But happiness classes don’t make students happier.
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