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Tolerance

Definition

Tolerance is the capacity for, or the practice of, recognizing and respecting the beliefs or practices of others. We assume Tolerance occurs within the legal limits of behavior. 

Checklist of Observable Behaviors

What people do:

___ 1. Listen

___ 2. Make eye contact appropriate to their culture

___ 3. Make comments even if they disagree, to indicate their understanding, and to use a neutral tone to encourage the speaker to continue

___ 4. Include diverse persons  and/or perspectives in activities

___ 5. Willing participation during in-depth discussion on controversial topics

___ 6. Presenting balanced viewpoints

___ 7. Demonstrating positive non-verbal communication (head nods, smiling, open posture)

___ 8. Affirming all contributions

What they do not do:

___ 1. Interpret others’ comments inappropriately

___ 2. Make negative comments 

___ 3. Be mean

___ 4. Break off the talk

___ 5. Make culturally inappropriate eye contact

Reference

            The American heritage dictionary (2nd College ed.).(1988). New York: Houghton, Mifflin.

Example

A teacher may challenge students to think more seriously about equity matters by exposing them to other cultures through multicultural literature, arts, and music. Other viewpoints may be investigated through in-depth discussions on social issues such as poverty, racism, ageism, and homophobia. The teacher may present balanced viewpoints in the lesson–especially history lessons–and consistently point out situations, words, and ideas that may demonstrate intolerance. 

To do that, the teacher may use, for instance, a documentary videotape about intolerance and violence (see "A Focus on the Black Experience" by Frank Crumell). Then the teacher may focus on fairness and relate situations to the students’ prior knowledge and personal experiences by asking them questions such as: "What if this were you? How would you feel?" The teacher should move the conversation to the action stage by asking: "What would you do?" or "What do you want to do about it?" The teacher may help students follow through on positive actions.

The following excerpt from Crumell's article demonstrates how one teacher challenged students' beliefs.

As the lights were about to go out, my students quickly moved their desks next to the people they promised they wouldn’t talk to. Amid the screeching of the furniture, the pounding of books on the floor and, of course, the chatter, I heard a number of the 8th graders lament, "We’ve got to watch another boring movie." I just looked at them and smiled. Within a few seconds, every eye was fixed on the monitor as the words of the narrator reverberated throughout the room: "Tar Baby … Red Bone … High Yellow … Skillet Black …"

For the next 56 minutes, my racially and ethnically mixed class was spellbound. Surprised that a video could so objectively and aptly reveal the painful effects of slavery and discrimination on and within the African American community, my students responded with discussions that were enriching, soul-bearing and uniting.

As a teacher, I was grateful that this work placed the taboo topics of skin color, hair and facial features in the context of respectful contemplation and understanding that such topics deserve. These teenagers had reacted in much the same way as audiences around the country to the unforgettable, fast-moving documentary A Question of Color.

"Finally," a student clamored, "we get to see how slavery affects our generation." (p. 63)

Reference

            Crumell, F. (1999, Fall). A focus on the black experience.Teaching Tolerance Magazine, 16, 63.