Why I like the word "tolerance" when talking about diversity

"Tolerance" is surely an imperfect term, yet the English language offers no single word that embraces the broad range of skills we need to live together peacefully.

The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. used the Greek term "agape" to describe a universal love that "discovers the neighbor in every man it meets." The various disciplines concerned with human behavior have also offered a variety of adjectives: "pro-social," "democratic," "affiliative."

In its Declaration on the Principles of Tolerance, UNESCO offers a definition of tolerance that most closely matches our philosophical use of the word:

Tolerance is respect, acceptance and appreciation of the rich diversity of our world's cultures, our forms of expression and ways of being human. Tolerance is harmony in difference.

We view tolerance as a way of thinking and feeling — but most importantly, of acting — that gives us peace in our individuality, respect for those unlike us, the wisdom to discern humane values and the courage to act upon them.

Many people don't like the word "tolerance." I really like it. People have said to me that they feel it suggests that we should "tolerate" people who are different than us. I think the Teaching Tolerance explanation of word choice is elegant and clearly deals with the potential problem of wording. Do you use "tolerance" in your diversity discussions? Should we?

side note: Teaching Tolerance is one of the best educational resources I've ever come upon. It has material on so many issues from class to race to gender to sexual orientation to gender, and many more that I'm missing.

Posted via web from arvind's posterous

arvind s. grover

I am a progressive educator, a podcaster (EdTechTalk.com/21cl), a blogger, and dean of faculty of JK-11 school (building a high school) in New York City.