To some parents and teachers the idea that they should encourage their children and pupils to be tolerant may seem as obvious as the idea that they should encourage kindness and considerateness. Indeed, amongst parents and teachers of a liberal persuasion a concern to promote tolerance is likely to occupy a central place in their vision of moral education, for whatever else liberalism embraces, tolerance along with liberty are its central ideals.1. It may seem hardly worth adding that in a multicultural and multifaith society, tolerance takes on extra importance and becomes what has been called ‘a major aim in education’.2. In fact the Swann Report maintains: ‘There is now an acute need for a new dimension of tolerance’,3. the acute need no doubt arising from diversity and variety and the regrettable accompaniment of prejudice. After all, there is little call for tolerance in a society where differences in hues, backgrounds, attitudes and customs are at a minimum or where people share one set of values and pursue one vision of the good life. In this respect it may be worth recalling Sir Isaiah Berlin’s observation:

The history of ideas… has its surprises… Among them is the discovery that some of the most familiar values of our own culture are more recent than might at first be supposed… The notion of toleration, not as a utilitarian expedient to avoid destructive strife, but as an intrinsic value; the concepts of liberty and human rights as they are discussed today… all these are elements in a great mutation in western thought and feeling that took place in the eighteenth century…4.


Negative Attitude Moral Education Virtuous Person Multicultural Education Restricted View 
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  1. 1.
    For a consideration of liberal values see K.F. Koerner, Liberalism and Its Critics. (London: Croom Helm, 1985), ch. 6.Google Scholar
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    E. Hulmes, Education and Cultural Diversity. (London: Longman, 1989), p. 18.Google Scholar
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    I. Berlin, ‘Nationalism: past neglect and present power’, in H. Hardy (ed.), Isaiah Berlin: Against the Current. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1989), p. 333.Google Scholar
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    S. Mendus, Toleration and the Limits of Liberalism. (London: Macmillan, 1989), p. 8.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
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    I. Berlin, ‘John Stuart Mill and the meaning of life’, in I. Berlin, Four Essays on Liberty. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1969), p. 173.Google Scholar
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    See M. Billig et al., Ideological Dilemmas. (London: Sage, 1988), ch. 7.Google Scholar
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    Voltaire, Treatise on Toleration., quoted in D.J. Manning, Liberalism. (London: Dent, 1976), p. 47.Google Scholar
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    See H. Marcuse, ‘Repressive tolerance’, in R.P. Wolff, B. Moore, and H. Marcuse, (eds), A Critique of Pure Tolerance. (Boston: Beacon Press, 1969).Google Scholar
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    See P.P. Nicholson, ‘Toleration as a moral ideal’, in J. Horton and S. Mendus (eds), Aspects of Toleration. (London: Methuen, 1985), p. 160.Google Scholar
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    R. Livingstone, ‘Tolerance in theory and practice’, First Robert Waley Cohen Memorial Lecture. (London: Council for Christians and Jews, 1954) p. 6.Google Scholar
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    Nicholson (1985), p. 160. See also D.D. Raphael, ‘Toleration, choice and liberty’, Government and Opposition., 6, 1971; and D.D. Raphael, ‘The intolerable,’ in S. Mendus (ed.), Justifying Toleration: Conceptual and Historical Perspectives. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988), p. 139.Google Scholar
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    See A. Schwartz (1979) ‘Aristotle on education and choice’, Educational Theory. 29, 1979, 101-4. Perhaps the problem we find in Aristotle, of how we can learn to act as the virtuous person does, has become lost in what is now regarded as ‘the paradox of moral education’, for this ‘paradox’ involves a conflict between psychoanalytic perceptions of childhood and moral agency. See R.S. Peters, ‘Reason and habit: the paradox of moral education,’ in W.R. Niblett (ed.) Moral Education in a Changing Society. (London: Faber, 1963).Google Scholar
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    See R.M. Hare, Moral Thinking: Its Levels, Method and Point. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1981)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
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    Do those with an idée fixe. about the evil of pornography see tolerance in this area as itself evidence of moral atrophy? And, despite lack of evidence, don’t they insist that such tolerance leads to further evils? See B. Williams (ed.), Obscenity and Film Censorship: An Abridgement of the Williams Report. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1979Google Scholar
  22. 42.
    On the relationship between influence and autonomy, see K. Strike ‘Autonomy and control: toward a theory of legitimate influence’, in D. Nyberg (ed.), The Philosophy of Open Education., (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1975), pp. 182–8.Google Scholar
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    For further difficulties within the Marcusian position on repressive tolerance, see N.E. Bowie and R.L. Simon, The Individual and the Political Order: An Introduction to Social and Political Philosophy. (Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall, 1977), pp. 178–181.Google Scholar
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    But it has to be admitted, as Weale observes, ‘The concept of respect for persons is of itself somewhat vague’, (1985), p. 28. See also ibid, pp. 28-34; and S. Lukes, Individualism. (Oxford: Blackwell, 1973), pp. 125–7Google Scholar
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    See P. Gardner, ‘Religious upbringing and the liberal ideal of religious autonomy’, Journal of Philosophy of Education. 22, 1988, 93-4. See also P. Gardner ‘Prepositional attitudes and multicultural education, or believing others are mistaken’, in J. Horton and P. Nicholson (eds), Toleration: Philosophy and Practice. (Aldershot: Avebury Press, 1992).Google Scholar

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© Peter Gardner 1993

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