The past few weeks of conflict in the Israel-Palestine region have proved devastating to the global community. The generational trauma and the emotional ramifications of mass death have certainly been felt at CA. In the days and weeks following the re-emergence of violent hostility in Israel and Palestine, a problem particularly prevalent in the CA community was brought to light: the phenomenon of monolithic groupthink.

Colloquially dubbed the “CA bubble,” monolithic groupthink describes the intractably indivisible mainstream group thought process at CA. Groupthink at CA’s most noticeable manifestation is with regards to left-wing socio-political ideology. Given that the vast majority of the CA community, including myself, hold similarly liberal beliefs on many issues, it is not frequently that major problems arise from this bubble of thought. This process however, by nature, discourages individual responsibility, dialogue, critical thinking, and more than anything else, discourages dissent. The scale and ubiquity in which so many beliefs are held unquestioned in conjunction with the lack of dissent makes this community thought structure challenging to dismantle, even when its downsides are so apparent.

It is hardly the first time this culture has been seen as problematic at CA. In fact, I remember hearing about it being a flaw as I worked my way through the admissions process nearly two years ago. Yet now, in light of the immense media attention, extensive emotional ties, political partisanship, and ideological contention of the Israel-Palestine conflict, the CA bubble’s failures shine. The uniquely ideologically homogeneous makeup of the CA community has enabled us to frequently disregard, and even find solace in the silence resulting from the seemingly unanimous agreement created by groupthink. Even though this culture strips participants of their intellectual individuality, the bubble comforts us. It provides a strengthened sense of community and reduces the potential for the all-too-feared intellectual disagreement between community members.

Establishing a foundation for communal engagement on the subject is challenging given the obvious complexity of the violence in Israel and Palestine, its trauma, and the rampant misinformation surrounding the ongoing events and their perpetrators. I cannot recall the last time a topic sparked so much misinformation that circulated so widely; from reputable newspapers to Instagram headlines, it feels challenging to sort fact from accidental falsities or even deliberately misleading hyperbole. If even factual common ground is something we struggle with, it’s not surprising conversing on the topic is challenging. As CA’s Co-Director for Community and Equity, Alex Holmes touched upon in a recent all-school announcement, the echoing of misinformation on platforms such as Instagram—often propagated by those who maintain a hesitance to truly engage on the subject matter—has only led to further division within the community.

With the presence of gaping intellectual divisions surrounding Israel-Palestine conflict and the global response, I believe that CA has found itself stuck. As a leftist, politically-engaged person with Jewish family, reconciling the conflict and the following response is something that lingers in my head; discussion within my family has proven to be paramount to my processing of the violence. Yet, as a CA student, there has been little room for discussion, both school-sanctioned and otherwise. I lack an emotional tie to the region or the conflict, which is something that cannot be said for all community members. There hasn’t been enough space at CA for emotional processing, particularly for those with direct connection. There has also been a lack of spaces for intellectual discussion to understand the past and present of the region’s conflicts.

The CA administration's response to the crisis shows that a sense of confusion and “stuck-ness” is not a feeling exclusive to myself or other students. Although Head of School Henry Fairfax’s first all-community letter surrounding the topic came out just one day after the October 7 Hamas attack against Israel, it was not for another nine days that the whole community was again contacted on the matter. In the second letter, Fairfax acknowledged the deafening silence some community members had objected to, and recognized this misstep while calling for an all-school meeting “for students to share and listen in community.” He writes of a silence he has been feeling, a silence of listening and processing—a sort of silence that I believe can only be realized upon discussion. Ultimately, the meeting happened, yet felt delayed and simultaneously hasty; little dialogue resulted.

So, now what? In light of such emotional struggle and intellectual disagreement, we as a community were left with plenty of opportunities to make room for productive conversation. Paralyzed, we missed this opportunity. Instead, we found ourselves locked in the silence of groupthink. As Fairfax puts it in his second letter, “Moral certainty can offer a point of stability when outcomes are uncertain and conflicts are complex, yet it is antithetical to the work of education.” The profundity of such a statement lies in juxtaposition to the typical CA groupthink. Ultimately, the challenge of how to balance the CA bubble’s comforts, meet people where they are at, and our mission statement’s second stanza, “honoring each individual, we challenge and expand our understanding of ourselves and the world” remains. Perhaps for this time of struggle and the next, we can challenge our understandings and honor each other to the point of meaningful engagement.