Event details: 2018 VATE State Conference
- 29/11/2018 to 30/11/2018
- Bookings close:
2018 VATE State Conference
‘What do we do now, now that we are happy?’
Dates: Thursday 29 November - Friday 30 November
Venue: Deakin University, Burwood
'What do we do now, now that we are happy?' asks Vladimir of Estragon as they wait for Godot.
What do we mean by ‘happy’? Why is it an important objective? How do we measure it? How do we sustain it? What benefits accrue from it? A proposition, as Julia Gillard was fond of saying about matters educational, that needs unpacking. Though it’s a pity her ‘unpacking’ of the Australian education system left us with a strait jacket of a national curriculum and NAPLAN. Definitely, not ‘happy’, Julia. Unless, of course, you are the MP Andrew Laming’s daughter who did not realise NAPLAN was a test because of the fun she was having. Or possibly the Finns, recently voted the happiest people in the world and top of the world in PISA assessment. Do ‘happy’ Finns find PISA ‘fun’?
Bertrand Russell thought, back in the 1920s, that ‘it is now possible, owing to the industrial revolution and its by products, to create a world where everybody shall have a reasonable chance of happiness’. Russell put his faith in education conducted ‘in a spirit of adventure and liberty, the sense of setting out on upon a voyage of discovery’ to create this brave new world. Will Gonski Mark 2, with its emphasis on creativity and critical thinking, on assessing individual progress rather than ranking, realise a new Nirvana?
What of the beneficiaries of the latest technological bi-product, our Gen Z students? Research suggests that it’s not the whizz bangery of the latest apps or programs that make them ‘happy’. It’s their possibilities for connectedness. Then again, research also suggests that Harry Potter and hip hop have made them ‘happy’.
But would our students agree with this prompt from the first VCE exam (1991): ‘I suppose we all like happy endings but a realistic ending can be more satisfying.’ Probably not, judging from last year’s ‘depressing’ text selection controversy. Many want not only happy endings but happy beginnings and middles as well. Perhaps, as A.C. Bradley said of Gertrude, they want to be ‘happy like a sheep in the sun’.
The best thing Hamlet ever did for his mother, Bradley suggests, was to make her unhappy. Is that, then, our role as teachers: to make our students, if not exactly unhappy, then realistically ‘happy’? Ceredwin Dovey suggests a dose of ‘bibliotherapy’ might be a good thing.[vii]A resilience or wellness program based on reading literature?
And what of the adage, in the words of the old song, ‘I want to be happy, but I can’t be happy, till I make you happy too’? As the horrors of Syria and Gaza, Manus and Nauru, confront us daily in the media, and the Uluru Statement from the Heart languishes in political gridlock, what price ‘happiness’ for our students as they endeavor to become active and aware global citizens?
Perhaps we need to accept that ‘happiness’ is a chimera, and being ‘happy’ a game we play to fill the void, just like Beckett’s tramps, as they go on hoping, yearning, waiting… Perhaps, Sophocles’ Oedipusis really the last word: ‘Count no man happy until he is dead.’
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The caterers are Mary and Steve.
- Deakin University
221 Burwood Hwy
Burwood VIC 3125
- Event contact:
- Julie Diamente (9411 8500)
- Supporting Documents:
- Download the program preview here.