w9/ The Virtue of Tolerance


This week’s readings are my best so far. I am glad to be introduced to Paulo Freire’s work and his approach to teaching/learning -or life. His criticism against the tabula rasa view of (student) mind is truly r-evolutionary. His circular shaped understanding of teaching and learning as well as his focus on curiosity as the motor force of education (and life?) are truly inspiring. As an advocate of character education, I liked his focus on (growth of) the person, rather than the content of teaching. I absolutely agree with him that the best way to deal with oppression is to learn the tools (aka language) of the oppressor well.

His overall approach to “life” seems pretty Hegelian to me, from his assumption of the inevitably curious/striving-for-growth “nature” of the student/person (aka Spirit), to his focus on the synthesis as opposed to be stuck in the thesis (master-oppressor) and anti-thesis (slave-oppressed) dichotomy. I am kinda surprised to see that a seemingly-Hegelian approach created such an impact on the higher-education tradition here that is primarily “dominated” by the analytic school of thought.

Yet, after (and beyond) all these solid, realistic and idealistic conceptualizations, I believe Freire’s most important contribution to the theory (and practice) of idealism (in educational settings) is the “virtue of tolerance” that he defines as the ultimate duty of the humankind as a means of communicating which in turn leads to new possibilities (aka learning).

We used to taught that it is the “conflict” per se that is the necessary and sufficient condition for growth. We used to think appearance of anti-theses, as opposed to theses are necessary and sufficient conditions for the syntheses to occur. We used to believe, if the Conflict is real enough, then the magic (i.e. synthesis) happens. May be that’s why, for centuries, we keep deepening, widening, highlighting the theses and anti-theses, making the differences deeper, wider and brighter by the (un)conscious wish for the magic to happen: If we can make the differences salient enough, if the black would be the blackest while white is the whitest, then gray magically happens!

Developmentally, makes sense. At the stage of narcissism, all babies have this egocentric and magical mode of thinking. Many developmental psychologists agree that, the thinking/feeling processes of humankind seem to stuck at the stage of narcissism.

Freire’s incredibly elegant and singular contribution that growth happens only by the means of acceptance, is a ground-breaking shift of perspective, in my opinion. We have already started to experience this phenomenon thanks to rise of the person-centered approaches, yet Freire seems to nail it. That is, tolerance is the magic key opening the door of the magical synthesis: tolerance to oneself, tolerance to other, tolerance as a virtue. Tolerance to us in them, and tolerance to them in us. Tolerance to the oppressor in the oppressed, and tolerance to the oppressed in the oppressor. Tolerance, since the positions change, life goes on, and it is never the same river again. Tolerance, since without the condition of light, white or black are just the colorless-same.

I believe, introjecting this perspective, accepting the acceptance, will help us more to figure out the nature of change, so that as humankind, we can more realistically walk through our idealistic goal -of reaching best versions of ourselves.

3 thoughts on “w9/ The Virtue of Tolerance

  1. A. Nelson

    Oh I can’t even count all of the ways I love this. You’ve given me so much to think about. I’m especially intrigued by your riff on Freire’s debt to Hegel, which makes me wonder how much tolerance and synthesis have in common? And the shades of grey……Do they magically emerge from the “whitest white” and “blackest black”? Or are they not grey at all – are they a swirl of the full color spectrum? r-evolutionary indeed.

  2. fdelamota

    Interesting! I actually also hit Hegel and his master-slave dialogue while thinking about Freire’s Pedagogy of the Opppressed, but I ended up going with Kant for my post.

    Yes, I think the best take home message from this reading is thinking of teaching as a way to enhance the personal growth of the students, and not just content delivery on any given subject. And now, thinking about it again, this brings me to the German school system in which students are divided in casts based on academic performance. Certainly a reactionary system that ensures societies’ economic productivity. However, if critical thinking becomes the norm in society, we may need to prepare to deal with a lot of frustration that may come from individuals with a well-rounded mind that have to spend their life pounding nails or scrubbing toilets to make a living. My country is currently taking several spoonfulls of this bitter medicine.

  3. Yanliang Yang

    You post, like the reading of this week about Paulo Freire, raises teaching into another level of nurturing people. Teaching is not only about the knowledge, but also about the personality. Tolerance is one of the virtues that young generation seems have tossed to the wind. Tolerance is the key to move this r-evolution forward constructively. Otherwise, there would be too much conflict and fight.


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