TED Conversations

Caroline Phillips

CEO/President, Entrepreneur & muscian


This conversation is closed.

What can we do, as citizens to promote tolerance in our daily lives ?

You're in a meeting. Someone tells a joke ... it's about a jew, a black guy, that pushy feminist, that gay guy... What do you do ?

You're waiting in line and you see someone ethnic/different being badly treated by a bank teller/government worker/cashier.

You're at a party where Dave, your friend's husband is gay-bashing again.

At school, you hear a kid use a racial epithet when yelling at another kid.

What kind of attitude do you adopt ?
If you do say something... what do you say ?
How can and does your behavior affect others ?

If you have stood up for the underdog and for tolerance, how did it affect your relationship with friends, clients, business partners or significant others ?

Tolerance ... definition :
"The capacity for or the practice of recognizing and respecting the beliefs or practices of others."


Closing Statement from Caroline Phillips

Thank you all for your wonderful contributions to this conversation about Tolerance with a capital "T".

I've learned quite a bit from you and I think it's a wonderful testimony to the magic of TED that so many nationalities participated in this conversation. I feel a lot like Mary Saville : I too tend to get too emotional and engaged about intolerant things I'm hearing so I can produce the opposite effect and be too agressive and intolerant. I'll aspire to be more like Robert Jaffe when adressing intolerant people, to react swiftly but not humiliate.

Susan B. writes "Standing up for the underdog, does not make life happy for you. You are looked at as not being a team player, going against the norm and going against the grain."

My concluding thoughts : Unfortunately I don't live in a "TED world", so standing up for the underdog will often be a perilous endavour, but I'm willing to take the chance.

Hugs to all.

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    Apr 28 2011: What kind of projects could be created for kids to promote tolerance ? (At school, after school, with friends) ...
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      Apr 28 2011: I have written many articles on de-humanising, depreciating and exclusionary practices. I and am in the process of turning these articles (many of which are on my website) into practice programs using actors, recorded and animated therapeutic stories into teaching materials. These materials are being adapted to all age groups so that adults and children can be exposed to the same programs in schools or communities. I am also in the process of writing a book on an appreciative approach to healing in the personal, relationship and social realms. This book will be full of tools and ideas about how to re-humanise the world in each or your spheres of influence.
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        May 3 2011: sooo important..especially here on my littl e island which like many rural parts of the wolrd is cut off..despite the vast possibilities of the internet..so easy to get in grown and live on a diet of "memes"
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      Apr 30 2011: Kids are at a stage where patience is a rare commodity. patience is promoted when team work is delegated. I am an actor and i have seen that the film industry does work with the highest level of tolerance right from fact that the film making business has people from all racial backgrounds working, eating spending time together. For a single scence to attain perfection people from all depts have to be in perect sink and harmony. I would therefore like to put forward acting worshops that we have developed that instill teamwork. It attests the fact that winning is possible only with perfect co ordination of the entire team.
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      May 2 2011: Start with the issues in primary schools between different cultures. They can be 'enlightend' if children are taught everybody is '50%' the same. We need to eat, sleep, (work and play). This is something you need to organize together locally. This creates a very general connection between all children in the classroom, a physical survival base for tolerance, on which accepting mental survival differences could be build.

      So in the future, no matter how much they disagree on something 'mental' they always have the on going discussions between them on how to improve collective survival.

      As for grownups, we take survival for granted, leaving 100% space in our mind to think about immaterial stuff. Quite dangerous... In case of economic crisis, oil/food shortage we will not have the experience with eachother to deal with it locally. And all we know about eachother are mental differences, so there must be the solution in solving fear/hunger.
      • May 14 2011: Probably higher than 50% - One could even start a discussion around what the % should be (& settle on a range, not one 'correct truth'). Then I suggest the question: 'What would 100% be like?' My own personal answer is 'BORING'. Hopefully this would be a well accepted answer - but I don't know!

        Proceeding on the assumption of general agreement to 'Boring', hopefully one could progress to valuing that % of diversity.

        Depending on the 'clientele', one might also pursue the 100% alike/0% diversity hypothesis from a different perspective. Progress, comes to mind. Where would new ideas come from? Most people have been involved in brainstorming - without diversity, it would be a pointless exercise!

        I'm sure that there are other discussions that show why 0% diversity is a bad thing - but these two spring readily to mind.

        It wouldn't hurt to take a look at 100% diversity and see that it would not be desirable either. We need to have some things in common and we do!

        And what does life present to us? Why, enough commonalities that we can work together and enough diversity to make that work interesting and productive!

        Schools should recognize in some way, Christmas (not 'winter break' - it avoid diversity), 'Chinese' New Years, Diwali, Ramadan & the Eids, Water Festival, Persian New Year, Passover, Hanukkah, etc.

        Having said all that, 'venue' might well affect the discussion. I was raised in a town that was (& still is) fairly monocultural. I now live in (very near) Vancouver, BC which is thrillingly multicultural (in my opinion).
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          May 16 2011: Yes, schoolclasses should have a calendar with all the holidays of different backgrounds in the classroom. I grew up in a village, 0% diversity. Potestants and Catholics is as far as diversity got..

          'God/Allah' fearing parents tell children to defend their religious culture. A clash on playgrounds.

          Holidays could be a good method to see 'all' cultures have celebration needs, with about the same goals. They are just named different and are on different dates.
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        May 18 2011: As for sameness, it's an awful lot more than fifty percent.
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      May 3 2011: Education is the path! We need to start to educate our kids at an early stage at school. Beginning with primary grades. I believe that is very important to include projects that promote the multiculturalism. Including a curriculum that study the history of the different immigrants that have come to this country will be a good start. In this way we will be able to understand our differences, accepting others, by learning about their cultures.
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        May 22 2011: Yes, a thousand times yes! Not only incorporate it into our educational system (which is in dire need of overhaul to begin with!) but incorporate it AND assign it a high priority. It starts with the hard work of defining and articulating it and infusing it in the curriculum, then training prospective teachers how to include it in their teaching approach, then developing a way to hold teachers accountable for making it a part of their classroom.
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        May 4 2011: Man, I love now knowing that school is 'creative leisure'! That's what it has always been to me. Jaime, I have already raised my 5 and I did apply that stuff in my home with good results.
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        May 4 2011: Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!Thanks Jaime!
        "The use of language must be considered a very precise instrument for our communications. Its not a free tool but is a skill thas has to be improved. The meaning of your words is clear, but could be sharper." I invite you to critique my words any time to help me be sharper.
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        May 21 2011: Hi Jaime,

        I agree with you that education at home is key. However, MOST kids grow up with parents with a biais about something racial or political. I wonder if the people on FOX News grew up in a tolerant and open household ?
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          May 24 2011: That's a great point Caroline. What I cannot absorb is why they still have viewers. Watching one O'Reily attack and ridicule session was enough for me.
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      May 13 2011: I do an exercise called "Me to We." In essence, students are paired with the most different other in their classroom (I do it with adults as well). They capture one another's story and create a "Shared Values Plan"

      They quickly engage mutual empathy when they see how similar they are through sharing interests, characteristics and values. A window in which both unique differences and unseen similarities comes into view. Suddenly they see how the kid they might never have dared or thought to connect with is interesting and has something to offer they had never before noticed. It is a co-reflective, co-creative process -- they see the power of their own and the others story.

      Apologies for linking yet another essay -- but it captures a favorite example about Me to We:


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          May 22 2011: Jaime,

          I've pondered your response, somewhat unsure of what to make of it. But as I reread it, it occurs to me that your interpretation of achieving Me to We through dance is quite resonate at numerous levels.

          The first, something I had lost track of was the thought of incorporating partnered dance into research to get in touch with a deeper, more visceral experience of "Me to We." The balance of physical presence and what might be considered something like inter-infusion with respectful tensions and boundaries is a key to this relational dance, I think.

          I'm unsure of how this would lie out logistically, but note how you unknowingly captured if not in a sense affirmed and enriched a concept I conceived a couple of months ago and shared with another in private conversation.

          The second relates to a community initiative I'm involved with that is considering street dances (in an American suburb) to engage healthy intergenerational activity. The physical, emotional and social benefits--particularly at a time and place where busy, media mediated lives and stress lead to ever more isolation between diverse neighbors could be transformative.

          Third is the thought that all this builds very much on is this sense of concentricity that your words so richly suggest. The layered effect of shared movement to music,the harmony, timing, touch, rhythm, sights, sounds has a compounding effect, both in the moment and beyond. There is a sense of co-creation, of open-ness and interdependency at so many levels in shared dance that can construct shared trust that words alone can't always.

          Within and beyond these all, as you point out is the powerful effect of co-consciousness of our abilities to be and quite literally embody happiness together. And, to as such endorphin satisfying experiences so often do, feel compelled to 'come back for more' of such delightful Me to We.

          Which, I must say, with belated gratitude for your reply: has me wanting to go out and dance!

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        May 18 2011: Excellent ideas, Ms. Walstrom!
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      May 14 2011: To bring tolerance, especialy to kids. We need to be tolerant ourselves, for they are learning through what they see.

      Kids wouldn't behave violently if they wouldn't witness this behavior from somebody else. They only mimic grown ups behavior.

      So you can't expect to successfully educate all kids into being tolerant as long as there are intolerant adults. All this would create nothing but a generation of perfect victims to become. It would not be helpful for them in the current society, change the society and the people will follow the model, make love and compassion to generate funds.

      Thats the real solution.
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      May 14 2011: Make them part of the ruling group, then take that away and make them part of an oppress group. This is the only way you can understand how to apply tolerance. Because if all your life you live in the privilege group you will never will be able to really be tolerant. Also if you are part of an oppress group you will likely become an oppressor yourself.
      • May 14 2011: I don't know about the first two sentences - the exercise is not practical.

        " if all your life you live in the privilege group you will never will be able to really be tolerant.

        I would change to:

        ' if all your life you live in the privilege group you will find it very difficult to be tolerant as there is so much you take for granted, without questioning it.'
        I think there is hope and that some empathy can be achieved with effort.

        "Also if you are part of an oppress group you will likely become an oppressor yourself."
        Alas, this is so true - and I appreciate the hope you allow here with the word 'likely' - not certainty!
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          May 24 2011: I think you are right in that the above post could have been worded less absolutely (the "likely" is key, I agree) and gone further in its reasoning.
          But really I wanted to point out that the exercise is practical, in that is has been done! Not without controversy of course. See this:
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      May 24 2011: I'm working on spreading my local TEDx conference on social media, and in that process I've been learning about some cool ideas related to this. I'll mention a few here here:

      One of the workshops will be run by a guy who travels to schools to teach kids songwriting and then helps them write songs about issues that affect their whole school communities, such as bullying and peer pressure. The kids who write the songs evidently live by their words and try to instill their ideas in others, and not just through their songs.

      The other will be run by the co-founder of River of Words, who empowers students with artistic skills and uses the natural and cultural world around them to inspire them to self-expression. In the process they find more self-confidence as well as understanding of others and a connection with the world around them.

      Finally, my favourite example of building tolerance->compassion in children I read about some time ago in this article:
      Check that out! It's about bringing an infant into the classroom over the course of the year and having the children bond with it, learn about caring for it, and watching this tiny being develop. (As it turns out, the person behind this, Mary Gordon, is speaking at TEDxGGED, which I didn't realize until just a minute ago! Very exciting.)

      I look forward to learning more about these things at the conference itself, which (shameless plug) you can check out at http://tedxgoldengateed.org , and I hope these ideas inspire your own.

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