Education for Tolerance - Mastering global challenges

  • Andreas Hejj Pädagogische Hochschule NÖ


A Native American Indian goes to a New York bar. The barman asks him: Well, how do you like life in our grand old city?   The red man answers him with a question: And you, how do you like life in our ancient homeland? When different cultures meet it is usually the members of the other group that are considered rude because they do not behave in a way the first group would expect its own members to behave. Because the strangers’ behaviour is strange and not in accordance with local expectations, it cannot be prognosticated what they are up to, so the locals will grow reserved and suspicious with the strangers. Due to what social psychology terms a self-fulfilling prophesy, this mistrustful approach will elicit the worst possible side of the „other” culture, and that in turn will feed the vicious circle yet more momentum, and keep tension increasing. It is undoubted that tensions experienced more and more often in culturally and ethnically increasingly diverse societies of the 21st century pose a great responsibility to educational science. The present study examines the development of xenophobia taking into account the results of depth-, social- and evolutionary psychology. It demonstrates how important the knowledge of one’s own cultural roots is, so that the group members are not forced to idealise their own culture, because then they are not able to see and accept their negative properties. Instead these properties and the corresponding behavioural patterns are projected onto another cultural group being made fun of, pilloried or even persecuted.Luckily educational science is well equipped to meet this challenge and to contribute effectively to the peaceful coexistence of diverse cultures. Besides providing an empathic introduction to one’s own and the neighbours’ cultural traditions and motive systems, the objective is to form a concept of humankind that allows one to perceive even the most differently thinking and acting person as a human with a heart in his/her chest – even if one has absolutely no sympathy towards the other person’s ideology, values system, judgements or even behaviour.