According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, tolerance can be defined as the "willingness to accept feelings, habits, or beliefs that are different from your own; the ability to accept, experience, or survive something harmful or unpleasant." While the people who believe "tolerance" is the antidote to the poison of racism, sexism, and other kinds of bigotry want this word to mean something bigger than it does, I personally refuse to raise a tolerant kid. As adults we need to go way beyond teaching kids to just tolerate other people, especially if we really want to make the world a safer, fairer place.
Despite some folks efforts to change its meaning, the word tolerance still largely refers to our response to things we dislike. When a sweating person complains they're barely "tolerating" the heat and humidity of summer, they're not saying they kinda "appreciate the diversity" of 90-degree highs and a heat index in the 100s. When someone says they've learned to "tolerate" the stench of a sewage treatment plant a half a mile from their home, they may have accepted that the horrible smell is part of their life now, but that doesn't mean they're at all happy about it. Suggesting that the fundamental parts of human beings' very identities should be "tolerated" in the same way we tolerate grating heat or horrible smells is deeply offensive to me.
For any parent raising kids in a diverse society, setting "tolerance" for other people's innate differences as a goal strikes me as hopelessly inadequate. No parent I know would ever aspire to raise their kids to just "tolerate" reading or math, because literacy and numeracy are crucial skills. As social beings, our survival depends on our ability to do more than tolerate others; we need to be able to empathize and cooperate with lots of other people, and it is impossible for us to only interact with people just like ourselves. Merely managing to keep our disdain to ourselves (which is almost impossible, because our true attitudes are usually very obvious) just isn't good enough.
In our deeply unjust society, "tolerance" functions as a way for people who are privileged enough to not directly experience the impact of oppression to simultaneously ignore that oppression while still getting to think of themselves as decent people. As a multiracial family, my kids and I don't really have the luxury of pretending that tolerance is enough. Even if we did, however, I wouldn't; we just have to do better than essentially "agreeing to disagree" about different people's inherent worth and dignity. So, with that in mind and in the name of true progression, here are just a few reasons why I won't be raising my son to simply be tolerant.