‘Happiness is more important than grades’

'Happiness is more important than grades'
Swedish father Micke Gunnarsson. Photo: Cecilia Jägenmark
It's important to gain new knowledge, but Swedish school pupils are judged too much on their grades, argues a father who's written a heartfelt letter to teenagers taking exams this Christmas.

Dear teenager,

I know that you and many people feel powerless. You might sit there the night before the test and feel like you know nothing. Everything is just a mush. The well-known feelings of not understanding anything and feeling stupid are sneaking up on you. Maybe you want to give up. Maybe you want to rest for a while. But the fear that you might not make it, not pass, that you are screwed, is constantly in your thoughts.

How will this end?

What do you want to become?

Have you made the right choices?

Beside you, I sit. A just as confused, and maybe scared, father. I do not know if I should comfort you or put pressure on you. Suddenly, the motivation of actually wanting to learn new knowledge, being curious and feeling happy has been replaced with words like 'make it', 'fight', 'survival', 'pressure' and 'sadness'.

As a dad I want to say: 'Shit!'

It is not suppose to be like this. I want to see happy, young people. I do not want to trick you into believing that everything you learn in school, every hour, is vital. That is bullshit.

Right now there is a system that you and many others are in. An old system from adults that can be a smart thing to let you have experiences and learn to keep this planet going. This is what we call school. For over one million minutes you are going to hang out with adults to – in the most effective way – create a happier planet. But the system is fragile. All of us know it. Parents, teachers, principals. The world has changed. You have changed! Do you still feel the curiosity, happiness, and lust to explore and learn as you did when you were little?

It is important to learn new knowledge. But remember that you are supposed to last for a while. And your joy of life, power and faith in the future are more important than how you take out an x from a equation, I promise.

And all of these tests, these judgements and controls we expose you to are rather a tool for the school to know how to handle you, nothing else. It is a part of a system that in some way will put you in a folder in the academic world. It is not about you or the knowledge itself. You do a test. You get 20 percent wrong. You get to know this. Then we move on. Next chapter. It is a lot to do in limited time. 

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What do I want to say in this text?

Nothing and everything.

I am just a regular dad who wants the world to do what it can for you, my amazing child, to help you enjoy life. To be happy and feel joy. I want to sell you love and hope. I want you to buy it, the future. I want you to want to be in it. I think many adults are bad at marketing and selling the future to the younger generation. If we worked this way to sell cars we would not have many buyers. For me to be able to sell a car I have to believe in it.

The same principle applies when trying to selling you the future, my young friend. I believe in it and I wish you to do the same. And for you to believe in the future we have to take care of you, so you do not break. A society’s rise or fall depends on the childhood you get.

So take care. Follow your dreams. Fight when you need to. But do not break yourself and do not believe that your life depends on one test or grade.

Life is way smarter than that.

This article was written by father, lecturer and entrepreneur Micke Gunnarsson. A longer version was originally published in Swedish in Expressen