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 This past month, three students from area high schools met to discuss their understanding of the concept of “tolerance.”  They were given dictionary definitions for the terms tolerance, acceptance and understanding and asked how they interpreted the differences between the three ideas. The goal of the discussion was to have the students take a hard look at their own understanding of the terms and apply that understanding to how they value diversity and to share their thoughts about their own experiences and interpretations of diversity.

            Tolerance:        the ability or willingness to tolerate something, in particular the existence                                        of opinions or behavior that one does not necessarily agree with.  The act                                        allowing something….

            Acceptance:    general agreement that something is satisfactory or right..there are laws

                                    That we accept, but may not agree with…but the rule of law is right.

Understanding:sympathetically aware of other people’s feelings; tolerant and forgiving

                                    A willingness to show kind or favorable feelings towards others

Each student selected a diversity quote from a list and shared how they interpreted the quote’s meaning.  Quote selections centered on the three terms and were difficult to arrange in any order.

Then came the tough part, we asked each student to think of a time that they were part of a situation where there was intolerance, discrimination, judgmental or bigoted behavior evident.  At first, each student was hesitant to share, not considering school or neighborhood issues, or things that they had seen in their own lives…but as examples came to light, the discussion broadened.

After the round table discussion the students were asked to describe the difference between the three terms again:  tolerance, acceptance and understanding.  The students were amazed at how much deeper their own experiences had played in understanding and also how much more they needed to learn to help them create a more global context.  As we all found, the terms or concepts can be used interchangeably .

Each student was asked to write a reflection/response to the activity and to share a few insights about how other students might begin to experience a deeper understanding of what those three terms mean…and how to create a more positive environment for talking about important issues such as tolerance, acceptance and understanding.  We hope this activity might be taken into the classroom, youth groups, and family discussions.

Lexi Schweitzberger             Sgt. Bluff-Luton                    Grade 9

I learned a lot from our discussion about the difference between tolerance, accepting, and understanding. I had never really put much thought into these three topics. The difference between these is a little complicated to understand and everyone can have their own opinion about it.  After doing some research, I realized that these three ideas are kind of like building blocks. Tolerance is defined as a fair, objective, and permissive attitude toward those whose opinions, practices, race, religion, nationality, etc., differ from one’s own. Acceptance goes a step beyond tolerance and is where you begin to feel ok with the idea or person. You can tolerate something without accepting it, but you cannot accept something without tolerating it. Understanding is the third building block and goes a step beyond acceptance. This is defined as being sympathetically aware of other people’s feelings.  It is possible to tolerate or accept someone without understanding him or her. It is also possible to understand a culture or a person without acceptance, or even tolerance.

I think that this topic is a little confusing, but is also really eye-opening. There are so many corrupt and unjust things in the world. If people would learn to accept and try to understand others, maybe we could solve some of our major problems in the school system and community. Bullying and jealousy are the first two problems that come to my mind in my personal life. If we as students could try to understand and accept the difference between people, maybe there would be less bullying, or maybe the teen suicide rate would go down. There are endless possibilities of what could be done if this topic was discussed more often. I think that it should be brought up in the school system. It could be a classroom discussion or a bell-ringer. It would get people talking and maybe change lives.

Parker Bell                             North High School                Grade 10

On the topic of tolerance, knowledge, and acceptance, I personally feel like not enough people know the difference. After discussing the three I have come away with this. There are the three levels, first tolerance, second knowledge, and then acceptance. Tolerance comes first, because if you tolerate something you can live with it but you don’t have to be involved with it or like it. After you tolerate something and get more comfortable with it you start learning more about it, this level is knowledge. At this stage you still do not have to accept it but you know enough about the topic to be able to make the choice to accept it or not. Finally, acceptance is after the subject is tolerated and explained to the individual or group who does not accept it. Acceptance is a combination of knowledge and tolerance because to accept something you cannot dislike it and you have to know enough about it to accept it.

Anna Nguyen                                    North High School                Grade 12

A topic that I could go on and on about would honestly have to be” bullying”.  Bullying happens all around us and sometimes we notice it, sometimes we don’t. Sometimes we simply just ignore it. I personally understand what it is like to be bullied. Growing up, I’ve dealt with racial remarks, been body shamed, and I have even been bullied because I am a girl.

When I was younger, it just made me sad, I’ve cried my heart out because of it. But now, honestly, I have learned to tolerate it. I realized that it’ll always be around me and I can’t really do anything to change what those people say or do.

This is what I notice around school, kids don’t really react to getting bullied much anymore. Racial slurs became “okay” and people brush it off. When someone is being bullied in any way or form, others just walk away from it. Sometimes, I wonder what goes on in the victim’s mind. “Are you tolerating it, or do you simply don’t care?” Though I say I understand, I will never fully understand. I can give both sympathy and empathy, but sometimes that isn’t enough to understand.

I remember in middle school we talked about tolerance, acceptance and understanding a couple times. I remember the majority of my classmates never took it seriously. They joked about the topics like bullying. They mocked the examples of the kids being bullied. Nobody ever seemed to try and understand. I never understood that. Talking to two other peers about this was kind of an eye opener, to have more people who understand but don’t really know how to react. It was really nice to just listen to what others had to say.

 I’ve asked some teachers at my school what they think tolerance, acceptance and understanding means. One responded with “tolerance is something you live with, with no further thought or action. Acceptance is something you take in and give positive feedback.” He didn’t really know how to put understanding into words, and I then proceeded to ask, “Do you think that we teach this enough at school?” He responded with,” Since I cannot answer the question fully, I do not think we teach this enough.” I started to wonder after that. When growing up, you are told that bullying is no good. That you have to accept how others are, if you don’t want to accept it, than you tolerate it. It’s difficult to teach others to accept and understand another one’s feeling, but it’s less difficult to teach then to just learn to live with it. That’s what I see around my school, people tolerating the name calling, the racial slurs, etc. Tolerating bullying shouldn’t even be an option honestly, you shouldn’t have to deal with people calling you names, telling you that you are not worth something..…



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