Some Implications for Education

  • Rivka T. WitenbergEmail author
Part of the SpringerBriefs in Psychology book series (BRIEFSPSYCHOL)


The psychological research about tolerance to human diversity provides some initial empirical evidence about what underlies and motivates tolerance. These findings have without doubt some possible implications for teaching tolerance. Essentially programs about the promotion of tolerance to human diversity and acceptance of others have a tendency to concentrate on how to eliminate prejudice and discrimination with the idea that tolerance will emerge. While undoubtedly, they are useful educational tools, one of the criticisms of such programs is that they draw unnecessary attention to difference, particularly with young children and that they are problematic in classrooms with diverse student populations of colour, creed and culture. However, there is an alternative way to approach the education and promotion of tolerance and acceptance. Research presented earlier in this book shows that beliefs in fairness (justice, equality and equity) empathy (sympathy, compassion and care) and reason (logic and open-mindedness) underpin tolerance. My contention is that programs teaching and encouraging justice, fairness and empathy are better tools to develop tolerance and acceptance.


  1. Arensmeier, C. (2017). Young people’s view of tolerance. In E. Lundberg (Ed.), The mechanism of tolerance (pp. 177–231). Stockholm: The Living History Forum.Google Scholar
  2. Baron-Cohen, S. (2011). The evolution and diagnosis of empathy. The Evolutionary Review, 2(1), 55–57.Google Scholar
  3. Bjorklund, D. F. (1995). Children’s thinking: Developmental function and individual differences. CA: Brooks/Cole Publishing Company.Google Scholar
  4. Bjorklund, D. F. (2013). Cognitive development: An overview. In P. D. Zelazo (Ed.), Oxford handbook of developmental psychology (pp. 447–476). Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  5. Blum, L. (1999). Shared values and particular identities in anti-racist education. Available online at:
  6. Butrus, N., & Witenberg, R. T. (2015). Some personality predictors of tolerance to human diversity: The roles of openness, agreeableness, and empathy. Australian Psychologist, 48, 290–298 (Published on line in 2013).
  7. Davis, M. H. (1983a). The effects of dispositional empathy on emotional reactions and helping: A multidimensional approach. Journal of Personality, 51, 167–184.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Davis, M. H. (1983b). Measuring individual differences in empathy: Evidence for a multidimensional approach. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 44, 113–126.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Derman-Sparks, L., & Ramsey, P. G. (2011). What if all the kids are white? Anti-bias multicultural education with young children and families. New York: Teachers College Press, Columbia University.Google Scholar
  10. Fiske, A. P. (1991). Structures of social life: The four elementary forms of human relations. New York: Free Press.Google Scholar
  11. Goldstein, T. R., & Winner, E. (2012). Enhancing empathy and theory of mind. Journal of Cognition and Development, 13(1), 19–37.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Helwig, C. C. (1995). Adolescents’ and young adults’ conception of civil liberties: Freedom of speech and religion. Child Development, 66, 152–166.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Helwig, C. C. (1998). Children’s conception of fair government and freedom of speech. Child Development, 69, 518–531.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Herbert, D. M. B., & Burt, J. S. (2003). The effects of different review opportunities on schematisation of knowledge. Learning and Instruction, 13, 73–92.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Hoffman, M. L. (2000). Empathy and moral development: Implications for caring and justice. New York: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Hoffman, M. L. (2014). Empathy, justice and social change. In H. Maibom (Ed.), Empathy and morality (pp. 71–96). New York: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Kohlberg, L. (1984). The philosophy of moral development: Essays on moral development (Vol. 2). San Francisco: Harper and Row.Google Scholar
  18. Oskamp, S. (Ed.) (2000). Reducing prejudice and discrimination. Mahwah, N.J.: Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  19. Piaget, J, (1932/1965). The moral judgement of the child. New York: Free Press.Google Scholar
  20. Upright, R. L. (2002). To tell a tale: The use of moral dilemmas to increase empathy in the elementary school child. Early Childhood Education Journal, 30(1), 15–20.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Independent ResearcherMelbourneAustralia

Personalised recommendations