“As soon as I opened Educating Angels, I felt I was in the presence of a visionary whose voice is critical to our current education policy-making. I have been in hundreds of schools, first as a counselor and teacher, then as a teaching storyteller. Armstrong is so often right. This book is a revelation. Read it; give it to a school board member.”
Jim May, former Illinois school teacher and counselor, now an Emmy-award winning storyteller and author
“Every teacher, parent and education administrator should read this book. It is the most radical that they will read this year.”
Anthony Seldon, Headmaster of Wellington College UK and author of Why Schools? Why Universities?
“Armstrong answers the question, ‘What does it mean to be well-educated?’ with a provocative paradigm shift. Educating Angels is a must-read for anyone truly seeking the best for our children and our society. Tony Armstrong’s cogent, persuasive argument is the perfect complement to our current STEM-centered educational environment.”
Caren Neile, Professor at Florida International University and author, The Great American Story
“Imagine an educational system designed to foster mindfulness and self-actualization leading to individual happiness. In his book, Tony Armstrong does just that and explains how to build it for our children.”
Tim Couch, Texas teacher in his 21st year
“Insisting on changing the tone and focus of the debates over public education, this book is unique in its insistence on the pedagogy of happiness. Theoretically robust and thoroughly practical, it provides an outline of educational transformation from K-12 all the way to higher education as a means by which individuals are empowered and thereby become more engaged citizens in modern democracies. This courageous and lucid book is an indispensable manual for those who care to change the present in order to promote a better future, with ample references to western and eastern philosophies and the current state of scientific studies on the nature of human happiness.”
Raphael Sassower, Professor of philosophy, University of Colorado, author of A Sanctuary of Their Own
“Tony Armstrong’s Educating Angels offers a simple yet profound research-based, holistic philosophy that makes our children the priority in our schools as opposed to treating them as tools for an ever changing, unstable economic system. Dr. Armstrong envisions (and cites examples of) schools where children learn to think for themselves, develop self-awareness, compassion, confidence and develop resilience to deal with life’s inevitable challenges; schools where graduation rates are up and diagnoses for emotional problems are down. In short, schools where children learn how to pursue happiness. I can see Educating Angels having a long-lasting, profound impact.”
Kathy Doyle, recipient of multiple Teacher of the Year awards, author of Allies for Justice
“Amid the charlatans and profiteers who aim to make education more efficient, this book challenges the assumptions of a broken system and calls for us to reimagine the education of our children as if they matter to us.”
Jeffrey Mask, Professor of philosophy and religion , Wesley College, author of At Liberty Under God
“Dr. Armstrong provides a comprehensive guide and resource to exploring the teaching of happiness. After providing an excellent justification for altering the nature of education, he provides concrete examples of how this “new” pedagogy of happiness could be implemented in classrooms from pre-K to college.”
Joseph Yuichi Howard, Professor of political science, University of Central Arkansas.
“Educating Angels is a must read for those who worry about the state of education and our children.”
Joann Prewitt, former teacher and retired Education Associate, Delaware Department of Education
Educators at all levels will benefit from considering Armstrong’s ideas and their possible implementation in the classroom.
In this refreshing inquiry into the true purpose of education, Tony Armstrong turns away from the current focus on subjects like STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) and standardized tests, and offers an intriguing alternative. With Educating Angels: Teaching for the Pursuit of Happiness, Armstrong calls for a paradigm shift away from education that treats students as a means to an economic end, toward practices that support the goal of achieving each student’s happiness.
Presenting his own thoughts, as well as ideas from an impressive variety of experts, Armstrong makes a strong case that encouraging happiness as the core of education would not only result in more satisfied students, but also a more engaged citizenry.
Armstrong opens with angel imagery—“My students might be angels … the light of angelic soul shines through their eyes … I see the worth of angels in them”—that suggests the book may have an overriding spiritual tenor. It doesn’t. While the author is indeed a visionary with strong beliefs about the sanctity of each person’s experience, he is also a college professor and a lifelong student of philosophy, psychology, and logic. Thus Educating Angels has an academic, intellectual tone. In clear, sophisticated language, Armstrong asks the reader not to follow his ideas blindly, but to examine the evidence that leads him to conclude: “If happiness is the common end of all human striving, and public education is the main means for governments to empower each citizen to pursue his own ends, it follows that empowering the pursuit of happiness is the main purpose of public education.”
In well-organized and comprehensively referenced chapters, the author delves into topics such as the purpose of education, the nature of happiness, and the sources of happiness. These are not mere musings; Armstrong uses data from his own research, as well as ideas from philosophers like David Hume, Immanuel Kant, and John Locke and contemporary psychology writers like Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and Martin Seligman to support the need for a new type of curriculum. For instance, Csikszentmihalyi’s work on “flow” indicates that students engaged in their areas of strength will work harder and longer, accomplish more, and be more satisfied than those forced to pursue a distributed course of study across a variety of subjects.
As rigorous as Armstrong’s academic inquiry is, his theory might come to nothing without a consideration of the methods by which schools can teach happiness. Fittingly, the longest chapter in the book offers myriad practical suggestions for developing a new “happiness pedagogy.” A small sampling of methods includes: teaching mindfulness, encouraging a wide range of creative expression, practicing gratitude and forgiveness, and encouraging students to reflect on their own unique gifts. Armstrong breaks this down into grade levels, sowing the seeds of a comprehensive curriculum to be implemented from kindergarten to college. He also mentions inspiring programs already in place, such as Inner Kids, MindUP of the Hawn Foundation, and the Mindfulness in Education Network.
“If education can contribute more to our children’s happiness, it ought to,” concludes Armstrong. Educating Angels persuasively argues that this isn’t an impossibly lofty goal, but an entirely achievable one. Educators at all levels will benefit from considering Armstrong’s ideas and their possible implementation in the classroom.
Sheila M. Trask, November 26, 2013
Teacher of twenty-five years, professor, and author Tony Armstrong challenges us to reform our schools and educate our youth by teaching a happiness curriculum in kindergarten through college. Armstrong argues that the ultimate goal in life is happiness; thus, we should teach and prepare our youth to reach this goal. The happiness pedagogy teaches youth to be mindful of their own and others’ feelings. It also teaches students to develop self-actualization and how to understand their thoughts and reasoning as well as those others. It fosters creative behavior, philosophizing, and learning about world religions. This book has potential to give our education system a facelift. Educating Angels is informative, as well as positive and upbeat. It is an empowering read for educators and parents. It is well researched: Armstrong clearly justifies why and how students need to learn how to use their feelings to learn. To create a happiness pedagogy, educators will develop activities for their students which practice using inner awareness, social awareness, means to influence feelings, expression, and engagement and inquiry. It is thought that, through this curriculum, students will become better citizens and happier people. This book has the potential to be the next big evolutional movement in education. Consider this title a must-have for professional collections in school and public libraries.
Reviewer: Julia Bowersox