My personal mission is to be a spark that ignites positive, sustainable change in the lives of youth. Thankfully, I have an opportunity to partner with key stakeholders in the process of fulfilling this mission (i.e. parents).

Before I share any of my leadership strategies with parents, I often ask them a simple question: “What is it that you want most for your child?” While their answers often include words like responsibility, confidence, and work ethic, the single most popular answer is: “I just want my child to be happy.”

Well, the last time I checked, there weren’t any happiness objectives in the newly released Common Core, which aims to provide a consistent, clear understanding of what students are expected to learn. I won’t belabor the many shortcomings of Common Core, but I do have one question that I would address to the bureaucracy that drafted these standards. When will we start addressing the “core” of our children: their social and emotional well-being?

You see, the Legislatures who create these initiatives are more concerned with the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of our country than they are the Gross National Happiness (GNH). According to Wikipedia, GDP is defined as the market value of all officially recognized final goods and services produced within a country in a given period of time. And yet, goods and services are produced by human beings and human beings are fueled by emotion. It seems fairly straightforward that if we increased the Gross National Happiness of our country, happier people would be more productive, which would mean a natural increase in Gross Domestic Product. As a result of this process, we might even end up with a GHS (Grossly Happy Society). Far from what we have now.

If we’re looking for examples, Bhutan is a country leading the way in the happiness movement as it actually measure Gross National Happiness. Perhaps our country’s leaders could pay a visit to this tiny nation and use its model to redraft the Common Core. As we move forward, It’s important to remember that our Declaration didn’t promise us happiness, but rather the pursuit of happiness. Will you join me in making happiness a part of every child’s education?

• Mike Sissel is a former Kyrene teacher who now owns and operates a youth leadership company called KaleidoEye. KaleidoEye’s signature program, Lenses of Leadership, is administered in various schools throughout Ahwatukee. For more information, visit or email

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