“He has the most who is content with the least.” Diogenes – Happiness
What does it take to be happy?
Students think that more is better – more money, influence, friends and good grades. The idea of cutting back on desire isn’t attractive, yet we can’t have it all. Throughout life students must make smart choices about what they want and how much.
Join Steve and Dan Fouts for an unforgettable conversation about happiness using the Teach Different 3-Step Method.
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Image source: Wikimedia | Jean-Léon Gérôme
Steve Fouts: 0:08
Hey everybody, Steve and Dan Fouts here. We are teaching different with Greek cynic Diogenes this week. Here’s the quote, “He has the most who is content with the least.” Here’s an example of a quote where you definitely want to circle the word content, because that’s an important word in this quote. The meaning of content over the last 2000 years has altered slightly. You could replace content with happiness or fulfillment. I would talk about the word content first, to make sure everybody is on the same page. Then, you can get into this whole idea of most and least.
Dan Fouts: 0:56
I’m glad you’re bringing this up, Steve, because if you don’t have a shared definition of the words in the quote, oftentimes, the conversations go in multiple directions, and they’re hard to contain.
You’ve got to be working with the same information. Happiness and contentment are human emotions, so the students are going to have experience with and opinions about what happiness means. What does it take to be happy? This is the type of discussion that might become emotional. You have to be ready for that. You might hear students share multiple angles.
Let’s start breaking the quote down with our 3-step method. We start with the claim of the quote – put the quote into your own words to make it easier to understand. Dan, what do you think?
Dan Fouts: 1:56 – Claim
I think he’s saying that you don’t need a lot to be content or happy. Happiness doesn’t come in numbers, you have to think like a minimalist in order to be content in life. The first thing that popped in my head, by way of an example that you can bring into the discussion, is the idea of friends. Is it better to have a few friends in life? What does that give you to just have a few people whom you call your best friends? They’ll immediately have an opinion about that. When that comes out in the discussion, as the teacher you want to intervene gently and ask, what are the advantages of having a few friends as opposed to having many friends? Validate them both. If we’re agreeing with the origin here, what do you get if you have just a few? I’m also thinking of money. I’m sure students are going to bring up the idea that you don’t need to have a lot of money to be happy. You can be happy with a little. Would you agree that they’ll probably bring that up?
I think money is a good example. That’s something that you’re going to want to be careful with in the discussion. Some of the students are going to come from families with a lot of resources, they’re going to have nice clothes, and perhaps they’re going to have more money than other students. So, be careful when you talk about things like this. The students are going to have strong opinions.
Dan Fouts: 3:43
You’re likely to have students in your class who are going to hear opinions about money that they may have never heard before from kids who are not at the same socio-economic level.
That’s going to create a great connection, at least that’s the hope that students realize they may think the same way about this, regardless of where they come from.
Let’s get into the counterclaim against Diogenes to make sure that we have a conversation that’s going to have legs. Dan, what would you say? What’s the best argument against what he’s saying about being content and having little?
Dan Fouts: 4:24 – Counterclaim
I think the way to articulate it is that happiness comes in numbers. The more friends you have, the better. The more money you have, the happier you’ll be. More is better. Think about Facebook. The more likes you have, the more followers you have.
Steve Fouts: 4:43
Yeah, the more popular you are, the more people who like you. That’s something you can hang your hat on. I’d like to add that it’s also a question of ambition. Are you happy with where you are in your life? Some students are motivated to move beyond their current situation. That’s what keeps them motivated to attend school, to earn money, to get more things that they want. This is an ambitious motivation for them. That’s not necessarily bad. Being content with having little of something is more like resignation.
Dan Fouts: 5:25
It’s giving up. It’s not getting the most out of life. There’s going to be an interesting tension in the room with this one. You’re going to learn a lot about your students in this conversation and where they’re coming from.
Steve Fouts: 5:45 – Essential Question
Money and friendship are great thought experiments to use to make sure they really have something they can connect with and have an opinion about.
Let’s go into the essential question now and think about what kind of question could conclude this conversation. How do you know when you have enough to be happy?
Dan Fouts: 6:08
I really like that essential question to close down the conversation, but also as a springboard for connecting it to your curriculum. To give a quick example, in English if you’re reading “The Great Gatsby” by F. Scott Fitzgerald, that novel is all about having more happiness. That’s what Jay Gatsby cared about the most. This would be a great conversation to have right before that novel, or maybe in the middle of the novel. You could evaluate the character of Jay Gatsby in light of the conversation that you’re having. What a great opportunity.
Steve Fouts: 6:53
That’s teach different with Diogenes for this week. Check out our Conversation Library to discover more conversations and resources to make having these conversations with your students possible. Good luck with this conversation, and we’ll see you next week.