Judgment and Tolerance

If there's one stereotype that won't go away, it's the idea that conservatives are judgmental and liberals are tolerant. In fact this concept is so deeply rooted in America -- no matter how deeply flawed -- that liberals tend to be more vocal about their politics than conservatives. They do this because they have bought into the notion that being liberal means you care. It means you're "open to everyone and everything" and don't judge people. Indeed, tolerance is the one thing liberals want to be known for.

Thus, liberals wear their badge with honor, whereas conservatives tend to be more reserved. It isn't that conservatives aren't convicted -- far from it -- it's that they know a liberal is going to misread their intent. He's going to think the conservative is judgmental, or inflexible, or even bigoted. On the other hand, being liberal means being a good person -- so people proudly wear this label. This doesn't mean there are more liberals than conservatives in the country (actually, it's the opposite); it only appears this way because liberals are so outspoken.

Let me give you an example of liberal hypocrisy: the idea that being "tolerant" (using their definition) is a good thing. In the mid-90s I taught a class of 6 eighth-grade black students -- male and female -- who were reading at a third-grade level. It was my job to get their reading level up to snuff, and I took this responsibility seriously. Unfortunately, I shared this group of kids with another teacher: one week they'd come to my classroom, the next they'd go to hers. My teaching style was reflective of my personality and worldview: my expectations were high; the boundaries were clear; and my methods were a bit traditional and a bit new-age. I was considered one of the good but strict teachers who the kids liked a lot -- though they hated the amount of work I made them do. (Which, I feel compelled to point out, was only considered a lot by today's standards.)

The other teacher's style was reflective of her peronsality and worldview: she was loosy-goosy; her expectations were extremely low; and the kids were allowed to hang out and attempt to read books like Amy Fisher: My Story, the Long Island lolita who shot her lover's wife and went to jail. This teacher was very vocal about her methods, which she believed in strongly. It was her belief that being a good teacher means being the students' friend and guidance counselor. She used to reward them for bringing a writing utensil to class, since that was a rarity for this group. During staff meetings she claimed to be "sick and tired of teachers (read: me) who refuse to understand what these kids' home lives are like and expect too much of them." It was manifestly evident that Ms. Bucci (I'll never forget her name) considered her niceness, her "tolerance," to be an example of what a good teacher -- and thus a good person -- should be.

This may just be one example, but I have countless similar examples I could offer -- and not just within the teaching profession. The idea is that the nicer a person is, the more tolerant they are. Strict people, or people who make demands on other people's behavior, are intolerant and judgmental.

Conservative-minded folks know it's the people who make such demands that care the most. Who do you think cared more about the future of those children? The one who appeared to be loving, tolerant, open, and accepting? Or the one who treated the children as if they were capable of doing more than bringing a pencil to class? The irony of the liberal concept of tolerance is that it produces the complete opposite effect of what's intended: By lowering our expectations of people, by giving them an out all the time, we in effect tell them that they are not as capable, or not as worthy, as the rest of America.

2 Responses to “Judgment and Tolerance”:

  1. EB says:

    I've been reading your blog every day (I found it somehow, likely through National Review Online) and I want to thank you. I am a concervative woman and fairly vocal about it, but as an at-home mother of two 5-year-olds, I can tell you that the pressure to be "nice" is almost overwhelming! I have also thought everyday about your comments earlier this week about the different values between liberals and conservatives. I know that I value most of the things on both lists to some degree, but I am certainly more passionate about conservative values. Maybe thinking about our differences in this way will help as I talk to my "nice" friends. Thank you!

  2. You're welcome! So glad you're enjoying it. Next week there will be a post about niceness! Since you're a SAHM, be sure to check out my website: www.suzannevenker.com.