Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

How to Teach Tolerance

Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

How to Teach Tolerance

Article excerpt

Tolerance is problematic, so I don't want to teach it blithely. I want children to grapple with its inherent tension of whether you should tolerate an intolerant person.

So I asked a Year 4 class to imagine a place called the Tolerant School on an alien planet, with the motto "Where every opinion is tolerated". One day a green alien called Zed says: "Red aliens aren't as clever as other ones. They shouldn't be allowed here."

I asked my learners, "Should the teacher stop Zed from saying this?"

It's not an easy task. If she stops Zed, she isn't upholding the school motto, but if she lets Zed continue, then she is allowing intolerance in the school.

Some pupils said they would rather go to the Nice School, with the motto "You are only allowed to say nice things". I asked the class if they thought this was a good idea.

"You'd never learn anything in the Nice School," one child said. "The teacher wouldn't be able to tell you when you'd spelled something wrong."

As you can see, they had moved beyond a superficial grasp of tolerance to a closer examination of values. This can be embedded in the classroom culture.

My colleagues and I at the Philosophy Foundation have a teaching strategy called the Imaginary Disagreer. …

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