What is the morality of Gould?

September 11, 2015

This was the framing question I posed at last Tuesday’s assembly. The answer is simple: we work to make the world a better place.

Here’s the rest of the message I delivered to students:

We’re not a religious school but we certainly have an ethical view, a moral framework. And it’s simple: we work to make the world a better place. So when you wonder why we have such a sense of urgency about your progress, that’s why. The world needs you.

Every adult at Gould holds a profound belief in your power to reduce suffering, expand understanding, create beauty, and enhance the lives of your fellow human beings.

And when we push you, it’s because we also believe it is your responsibility to fulfill this potential. To be lazy or disengaged from becoming your best, most powerful self is a tragedy we will not tolerate. Your life has begun, own it.

This may sound very abstract when some of you just left middle school or when you’re not paying your own bills or only a few of you even have driver’s licenses. But young people have always changed the world. That’s how it works.

And, we have a plan for you. You’ll not only become your best self, you’ll learn what to do with it.

Let me tell you how that will happen.

It will happen because here you will lead a rich intellectual life. You will explore the greatest achievements of the human mind, travel the world, exercise your curiosity, reflect on yourself and your performance, push yourself physically, and learn disciplined thinking.

You will know what to do because we have set high standards for you. As our mission states, at Gould you will learn to strive for your personal best in every pursuit and you will come to realize that at the heart of any worthy endeavor are the energy to try, the willingness to risk, and the capacity to persevere.

And you will know what to do because you will have lived in a caring community that expects compassion to inform every decision you make. The standard for all of us is well described in the 2009 Charter of Compassion: The principle of Compassion calls us always to treat all others as we wish to be treated ourselves. Compassion impels us to work tirelessly to alleviate the suffering of our fellow creatures, to dethrone ourselves from the centre of our world and put another there, and to honour the inviolable sanctity of every single human being, treating everybody, without exception, with absolute justice, equity and respect.

This relates to a sad story in the news. You may have read about the boarding school in which an older student was tried for raping a younger student. I am so sad for that community and those students. But if you practice compassion, you will not put your desire ahead of someone else’s well being. If you practice compassion, you will care so deeply for the well being of another that any hesitation or uncertainty by a partner is a clear time to stop. And if someone says “no” you stop, without question. If you respect yourself and practice compassion, you will not come close to the story in the news.

So, what is the Gould morality? We work to make the world a better place. How do we do that? By working together to help you become your best selves and to lead lives of purpose, action, excellence, and compassion. In so doing you will cure diseases, innovate, create art, tear down the walls between people, and care for the planet that is our one and only home.

This is our morality. Now let’s live it. Thank you.


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