The End of the Rainbow

How Educating for Happiness (Not Money) Would Transform Our Schools

An accessible and hopeful book that will be illuminating “to even the staunchest supporters of standardized testing” (Publishers Weekly)

“In this startlingly timely book on education in the United States, Susan Engel critiques the current monetized version of ‘return on investment’ and challenges us to focus on the right returns from the right investments.” —Howard Gardner, Hobbs Professor of Cognition and Education at Harvard Graduate School of Education and author of Truth, Beauty, and Goodness Reframed

Amid the hype of Race to the Top, online experiments such as Khan Academy, and bestselling books like The Sandbox Investment, we seem to have drawn a line that leads from nursery school along a purely economic route, with money as the final stop. But what price do we all pay for the increasingly singular focus on wage as the outcome of education? Susan Engel, a leading psychologist and educator, argues that this economic framework has had a profound impact not only on the way we think about education but also on what happens inside school buildings

The End of the Rainbow asks what would happen if we changed the implicit goal of education and imagines how different things would be if we made happiness, rather than money, the graduation prize. Drawing on psychology, education theory, and a broad range of classroom experiences across the country, Engel offers a fascinating alternative view of what education might become: teaching children to read books for pleasure and self-expansion and encouraging collaboration. All of these new skills, she argues, would not only cultivate future success in the world of work but also would make society as a whole a better, happier place.

Accessible to parents and teachers alike, The End of the Rainbow will be the beginning of a new, more vibrant public conversation about what the future of American education should look like.


“What, in our hearts, do we wish for our children, and how can schools be designed to help make those wishes come true? These are the most fundamental questions we can ask when thinking about schooling, and in this book Susan Engel combines good sense and empirical research to help us think about them.”
—Peter Gray, author of Free to Learn: Why Unleashing the Instinct to Play Will Make Our Children Happier, More Self-Reliant, and Better Students for Life
“A most enjoyable and provocative read, The End of the Rainbow invites readers to consider the purpose of schooling. Through anecdote and the use of scientific research, Engel makes the argument that schools aim for productivity rather than happiness, with the latter falling by the wayside.”
—Roberta Michnick Golinkoff, author of How Babies Talk, Einstein Never Used Flash Cards, and A Mandate for Playful Learning in Preschool

News and Reviews

The Boston Globe Magazine

An extended excerpt of Susan Engel's The End of the Rainbow appears in The Globe

Deborah Meier

New York University's Steinhardt School of Education senior scholar Deborah Meier calls The End of the Rainbow "a gem of a book” in a dedicated e-blast.

The Atlantic

Engel argues that "Schools should help children find new, more grown-up ways of doing the same things that are perennial sources of joy." in her piece for The Atlantic.

Publishers Weekly

PW reviews The End of the Rainbow, which "...will illuminate her rationale to even the staunchest supporters of standardized testing."


Books by Susan Engel

A School of Our Own
The Story of the First Student-Run High School and a New Vision for American Education

Samuel Levin, Susan Engel

Goodreads Reviews