Let's think about those school practices that have actually been proven to be harmful to kids. Not big-picture issues this time; let's think of the littler stuff that is very big in the eyes of the kids who are subjected to it.
1. Homework. Get rid of it. Elementary grades: we should be giving none at all. Middle and high grades: only stuff that is supported by research. Don't make kids work a second shift. Do we really have any idea the happiness this would bring to so many kids? Instant good will on the part of children, with accompanying positive impact on learning.
2. Extrinsic motivation. Snuff it out. No more lollipops for "good behavior," no more rewards for conforming to adults' expectations. Again, check out the research. All negative. Dump it.
3. Early start times for adolescents. Do you need to see any more research? Our high schools are full of zombies half asleep, half awake, all miserable. Let them sleep. It won't kill us.
4. Ban on cell phones. If you can't hold their attention in competition with a cell, that's not their problem.
5. Ban on social media. Kids have the world at their fingertips...except in school. Figure out how to connect your classes to the world. Better still, let kids do it.
6. Stop making them wait to go to the bathroom when they have to go.
7. Stop the ban on food in the classroom. When kids are hungry, they should eat.
8. Let them play. Let them hang out. Let them socialize.
9. Better lunch food, with kids playing a role in researching and deciding on menus.
Easy peasy, right? Send me your ideas on ways to make kids happier in school, starting right now.
Thanks to Lisa Nielson for her ideas!