We, as human beings, often pride ourselves on our morals: a set of personally informed fundamental values that enable us to approach life with some semblance of consistency and concreteness. As we grow, so too does our moral certainty, and with no shortage of echo chambers in the era of information that we exist within, our confidence in our own set of moral standards is reinforced. This certainty in morals shows itself the most amidst times of strife, disagreement, and conflict. Head of School Henry Fairfax acutely highlighted the problematic nature of this default approach to hard topics, writing in an all-community email, “Moral certainty can offer a point of stability when outcomes are uncertain and conflict is complex, yet it is antithetical to the work of education.” Similarly, one’s moral certainty can also be a barrier to discussion, critical thought, listening to others, and making progress on societal issues.

Perhaps the most notable and vastly detrimental example of moral certainty is in American political institutions. In the legislative branch, we have seen a decline in productivity that correlates with ideological polarization; the 118th National Congress was the least effective in decades. Massachusetts’ state legislature is not dissimilar, with the legislature, as of 2021, being the least productive in the nation by a significant margin; this metric is determined by the minuscule ratio (0.41%) of bills introduced to enacted. In considering moral certainty’s contribution to this problem, we need to look at how many politicians today are behaving in such an inflexible capacity in the name of their moral views, rooted firmly in beliefs and experiences. This is the case on both sides of the aisle, and due to the uncompromising certainty on behalf of all parties, everyone gets the short straw.

In the context of the arguably problematic nature of moral certainty, I find myself looking to a state of youthful passiveness. By no means am I suggesting that one should give up their morals or adjust them just to accommodate others. However, I do believe that there is a beauty to the amenable approach children so often possess. When engaging in conversation, even just on a peer-to-peer, day-to-day level, consider your moral disposition on the topic before engaging with others' opinions. Ultimately, moral dogmas do not solve problems; the discussion and subsequent action they so often inhibit do.