I’m opposed to tolerance. We’re supposed to teach it, practice it and model it to our children. I think that’s a bad idea.
Shocked? Read on.
First, take a moment to think about the meaning of the word tolerance. What does it signify about the thing being “tolerated”? It’s not good. For example, we tolerate a toothache until we can get to the dentist for treatment. We tolerate extreme heat or cold if we’re forced to be outside without proper clothing and shelter. When we just can’t tolerate pain any longer, we turn to strong medications for relief.
Nothing that gets “tolerated” is anything that we consider to be good, worthy or desirable. So what are we saying about ourselves when we say we need to learn to “tolerate” other people?
Surely this is not what we mean to advocate that our children do when we’re teaching tolerance – to grit their teeth and suffer through the presence of those people who are different from them.
Words matter, and by using the word tolerance we are telling ourselves that it is still okay to feel superior, to feel disdain and to feel privilege. Perhaps you never meant that when you used the word tolerance, but think about the word itself and you may begin to see it differently.
But the original idea is good – it’s just the word that’s not. So how can we do this better?
I have another idea. Let’s take tolerance out of the rhetoric – and while we’re at it, let’s toss out inclusion and acceptance as well. They all assume a basic it’s-my-world-first attitude that’s never been acceptable and is no longer – tolerable.
Instead, if you want to teach and encourage the right kind of attitude people should take toward others who are different from them, try using this word: respect.
We can never truly all see ourselves as being of equal value with equal rights if one group thinks of themselves as putting up with the others. No one has the right to make that kind of claim.
So no, don’t teach tolerance. Instead, teach respect – even better, show it to others yourself so that your children and the people around you will see how things should be. Let’s start right now.