Being Comfortable With Uncertainty

person writing on the notebook
Photo by Startup Stock Photos on

By Gary Krahn, Ph.D., head of school

It is never too late to read Richard Feynman’s book The Pleasure of Finding Things Out. The book is a somewhat haphazard collection of articles, but it serves as a wonderful look into the magnificent mind of Professor Feynman, one of the greatest physicists and thinkers of all time. He became a household name in 1986 when he discovered that the failure of an O-ring caused the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster. This book strongly suggests that “doubt” and “uncertainty” are attributes we should be instilling in ourselves and our children. 

As a revered teacher, Professor Feynman was often asked to share the best ways to teach. His responses assured us that there are many ways to approach teaching. One teaching method or perspective may hook some students and bore others. The key, according to Professor Feynman, was not to bore all the students at the same time. When concluding his remarks on teaching, Feynman would often admit he doubted the efficacy of his teaching. His self-doubt about his teaching left the door open for others and for himself to continue to grow. 

“We will only continue to progress if we always leave some room for doubt, some room for discussion. Uncertainty unleashes the real possibilities of the future of mankind.”
~Richard Feynman 

Feynman’s approach is antithetical to most of the voices on social media and news outlets that shape our culture today. He was comfortable with uncertainty. He enjoyed not knowing versus rushing to incomplete answers that can make the journey to the truth more elusive. 

Feynman appreciated how problems can unite people. And he was aware that solutions often divide us. He saw human attempts to understand the unknown as resting on two pillars: scientific exploration and faith/belief. Because the two can seem to be in conflict, we sometimes assume that holding firmly to one will, of necessity, weaken the other. Feynman thought the central challenge of humanity was how we earnestly use science to challenge our beliefs and at the same time, exercise our beliefs to challenge science.  

We see the challenge of living with these two pillars unfolding today as people move at record rates to join communities that are more closely aligned with their beliefs or understanding of science. If not moving to another community, families are transferring students to schools that will reinforce their family’s philosophical views. 

Schools can stray from their course now and then, but they need to be purposeful in maintaining a diversified school community for students to experiment with ideas, wrestle with uncertainty, and honor the dignity within all people. Let’s hope schools avoid being places where like-minded people congregate to validate and reinforce their ideas. To accomplish the impossible, the world will always need people who leave room in their hearts and minds for some uncertainty.  

Gary Krahn Ph.D.
Gary Krahn Ph.D.

Head of School

Gary Krahn, Ph.D., believes that pre-K–12 education will define the future success of our nation and our world. As LJCDS’s 12th head of school, Dr. Krahn’s role is to provide an environment to develop educated, ethical, innovative and thoughtful leaders who can anticipate and respond effectively to a rapidly changing world.

The Future Landscape of Work
What to do if Your Child Doesn’t Want to go to School

Share post:

Leave a Reply