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Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Tolerate Everything, Stand For Nothing: the practical limits of tolerance

In the practice of tolerance, one's enemy is the best teacher.-- Dalai Lama
The biggest difference that I found between the native-born and the immigrant (or refugee) children that I taught for almost twenty years was this: the native-born kids could talk up a storm about tolerance and the "right" of people to be different. The immigrant children tended not to express such views. Not that anyone practiced them with any regularity

Americans profess both to celebrate their own individual ethnicity and to tolerate others different from them at the same time. This strikes many foreigners as schizophrenic, but uniquely American. "But then," one Greek visitor remarked to me, "you are all really Americans, even if you kid yourselves that you are different." He suggested that the truest celebration of ethnic difference was to be found among the Bosnians and the Serbs, who at that time were busily trying to ethnically cleanse each other from the map.

The pursuit in our public schools of "multiculturalism" not only perplexes immigrants who have come here with the full intent of becoming "Americans", it conflicts with the traditional mission of the schools to promote a democratic society by inculcating a common political culture.

To examine these issues further, see Immigrants in the New America: 
Is it time to heat up the melting pot?

-- EGR