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The increase in adolescent depression over the last decade has been well- documented. Though promising treatments continue to be developed, the rate of increase is clearly outpacing our ability to help those who suffer. As such, it is worth taking a look at what factors may be contributing to this increase. The argument contained in this paper is that the nature of public education, in particular its existential reliance on extrinsic motivation, encourages depression through both implicit and explicit discouragement of curiosity. Curiosity will be posited as key marker of human vitality, and human vitality will be investigated as an inherently prosocial phenomenon. Self-Determination Theory’s proposition of basic psychological needs will provide an understanding of how this prosocial nature can be nurtured, as well as a lens through which to understand the fundamentally incompatible relationship between the current state of public education and curiosity. The paper will conclude with some thoughts on the puzzle of meaningful school reform.
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Greenberg, Michael Buffett, "How Our Public Education System Discourages Curiosity and Encourages Depression and Anxiety" (2020). Senior Projects Spring 2020. 249.
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