The word tolerate has its origins in Latin. It is a word from the early 15c., and means "endurance, fortitude" (in the face of pain, hardship, etc.), from Old French tolerance (14c.), from Latin tolerantia "a bearing, supporting, endurance," from tolerans, present participle of tolerare "to bear, endure, tolerate" (https://www.etymonline.com/word/tolerance)
When I think of the word tolerate, I think of “putting up with something” – my mother saying “I will not tolerate your bad behaviour”. It is a word that leaves a bitter taste in my mouth.
There is such a trend in education, fuelled through the media, of teaching tolerance. There are websites, blogs, books, Facebook pages…it is everywhere.
And in my opinion, it is not what we need in education, nor is it enough. We do not need another generation that “tolerates” – we need a generation of people who can practice acceptance, open-heartedness and respect, all in their most authentic forms.
Whilst it is valid to perhaps start with tolerance, it is not enough to leave it there – and that is my issue with teaching tolerance. It is seen as the ultimate outcome and quite frankly, if we see tolerance as the final destination, we are on the wrong road.
The idea of tolerance comes from examining conflict and resolution from an adult perspective. Observe a group of toddlers playing and you will naturally see acceptance, open-heartedness and respect (well…at developmentally appropriate levels). What you won’t naturally see is discrimination, rejection and judgment. We go on to teach our children how to discriminate (by statements like – little girls don’t do that!), judge, and compartmentalize their world. And then, we realize we need to teach tolerance…to undo what we have instilled.
This does not mean we create a generation where everything and anything goes – we do not have to accept being treated badly, we do not have to become everyone’s doormats because we want to practice acceptance, open-heartedness and respect. We instil in our children values of resilience, standing up for ourselves, and our ethics, and to be proactive in our own lives.
We do this not by teaching tolerance but by modelling and actively instilling values of kindness, respect, responsibility, open-heartedness, resilience and acceptance.
And that is why in our school, we don’t teach tolerance. Because it is simply not enough to bring about the changes in humanity that are so desperately needed for a better, more peaceful world.