Tolerance or Acceptance is where you may even like individual people in a group but you are still wary of or uncomfortable about the group as a whole. You may hear people suggest, “Hey, he or she brings some good energy, but let’s not have too many of them.” It’s as of people are thinking, “We will let in a few exceptions and we’ll decide how and when they get in. We’re still in control.”
For instance, I walked into a drug store and one aisle was marked “Hair Products”, but then up against the wall it said, “Ethnic Hair Products.” This display sent a subtle message. Some people are accepted – we let them in the store – but they are not in the main aisle. They are relegated to the side aisles; they are not mainstream.
The real products, that is the “real” people are the center of the universe. They are the sun. The groups that are being tolerated are satellites or distant planets.
I’ve seen this Acceptance concept displayed in textbooks. More inclusive history books will contain, for example, a chapter entitled “Settlers to the West” and then it will have a special sidebar that says, “Black Settlers.”
Wait a minute! Aren’t they all the settlers? Now, again, the good intention can be to include, but these textbooks are still keeping “Black Settlers” separate, not really part of the mainstream.
It’s similar to ethnic groups who have been Traditional Outsiders being given their special celebration months. When I was going to school, a lot of groups were absent from the curriculum. They weren’t even mentioned. So we can all appreciate the progressive that celebration months connote.
I am a professional storyteller and it’s a joke among those of us who provide school assemblies to talk about “our month” – be it Black, Latino, Women and so on. True valuing would mean the history and culture of each group is embedded throughout the curriculum all year long.
At the Acceptance stage, the “accepted” groups are still not part of the center. And the people in the center hold the ultimate power to define identities and make decisions for themselves plus others.
But truly integrating different groups history, achievements, communication and learning styles and so on is easier said than done. Often staffs are asked to teach things they never learned. In their over busy, demanding lives now they have to go back, study and create new lesson plans. Departments have to fit in tons of meetings to revamp the syllabus, coordinate prerequisites and fit the new classes into common core standards and measurements. Change is not easy even when it’s so desperately needed.
But for those who have done it they will tell you it was worth it to move to true valuing because students who feel seen, heard and valued do better in schools.
NEXT WEEK: How do I know if my school is truly valuing differences?