Tolerance fails T-shirt test

When a 14-year-old girl wore a “McCain Girl” T-shirt to her Obama-loving middle school before the election, her classmates told her she was stupid and deserved to die. The daughter of a liberal mother and a conservative father, Catherine Vogt wanted to test whether classmates in Oak Park, a liberal suburb of Chicago, would tolerate other points of view. Nope.

Her classmates told she was stupid; several suggested she should die or be killed.

One student suggested that she be put up on a cross for her political beliefs.

“He said, ‘You should be crucifixed.’ It was kind of funny because, I was like, don’t you mean ‘crucified?’ ” Catherine said.

Another classmate said she should be “burned with her shirt on” for “being a filthy-rich Republican.”

Catherine, who won’t say which candidate she supports, wore an Obama shirt the next day and was told that she’d regained her intelligence.

When she revealed the experiment in history class — the teacher knew all along — fellow students seemed to realize they’d failed the tolerance and inclusion test.

Via Katie Allison Granju.

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Comments

  1. Good for her. I hope her classmates learned a lesson and exhibit a new respect for true tolerance.

    With that kind of courage and insight, she will go far in life.

  2. We’ve been seeing this kind of intolerance from those claiming to want “tolerance” here in California ever since the passage of Prop. 8. A number of churches have been vandalized and a 69-yr-old woman was assaulted.

    Ironic that supporters of Prop. 8 are the ones accused of being “hateful”, no?

  3. Middle school students intolerant of people that are different! News at 11!

    Is anybody out there honestly surprised that middle schoolers would lash out at something that’s different? Really? That’s nearly the definition of the social environment in early adolescence. From calling things they don’t like “gay” to picking on kids who are different in some way, this is, unfortunately, what middle schoolers do. People, this doesn’t show any great truth about how the supposedly tolerant are intolerant, it just shows that many middle schoolers don’t think before they speak and just react on a pubescent, overly charged emotional level.

  4. Interesting that the article chose not to mention how many of the students at the school chose to verbally criticize or abuse Catherine. Was it really the whole class that needed to learn the lesson of tolerance? Maybe the lesson to be learned had more to do with courage? Speaking out to protect those that are being wrongly persecuted. I’ve always thought it was a generally accepted fact that people tend to look the other way when they feel threatened, which seems to be why a few people who use violence can gain significant control. Anyways, thought I should speak up on behalf of the students that may be getting wrongly accused, just in case it was necessary.

    An aside, I remember in psychology class that the professor recommended yelling fire instead of help, if you actually ever needed help. Not sure what is at work there, but I’ll always remember that.

  5. Eighth graders clickish, self-centered and cruel. That’s news? What is interesting is Catherine’s behaviour. She must be one tough cookie to have put up with what was dished out day 1 even though she knew what was coming. And what motivated her to do the experiment? And how have her classmates responded now that she has humiliated them nationally? And what did the parents have to say at dinner the second night?

  6. superdestroyer says:

    It is just not eight graders. Every high school senior knows to say that they have a deep devotion to diversity when applying to college. Yet, those same white, upper middle class students are told to visit campses and determine if they are a fit. What causes many of them to decide that a certain university is not a good fit is the large numver of non-Asian minority students.

  7. Robert Wright says:

    You can find intolerance on the right and on the left.

    But left-wing intolerance is harder to overcome.

  8. In California I would never have put a McCain sticker on my car for fear of the car being vandalized. Leftists are not nice people, at least a big chunk of them aren’t. I have had too much anecdotal experience and have observed too much egregious behavior to go against common sense. However, I wouldn’t have had a second thought about slapping Obama stickers all over the car because right-of-center people generally hold old-fashioned middle-class values, such as self-control and respect for others’ beliefs.

    On another note, it’s funny how old stereotypes continue to be successfully perpetrated and believed, like the one about Republicans being filthy rich. I wonder what the average income of a McCain supporter in Mississippi or Wyoming is.

  9. Robert Wright says:

    BadaBing, I think you have a point there with the old-fashioned values. It makes sense.

    Some of us on the left (and I’m probably to the left of Bill Ayers), don’t have any values — just doctrines and certainties.

    Right wing bigots are stubborn in their beliefs, but left wing bigots are out of their minds.

    I’ve been attacked by both and from my experience I can tell you that it’s better to be attacked by someone who hasn’t completely taken leave of his senses.

  10. Cardinal Fang says:

    “right-of-center people generally hold old-fashioned middle-class values, such as self-control and respect for others’ beliefs.”

    I’m going to see your car vandalism, and raise you three slain doctors who perform abortions, Matthew Shephard murdered for being gay, and the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City. Still in front of me, ready to push out onto the table, are a pile of lynchings of innocent black people… and in my pocket is Martin Luther King.

    Some liberal people and some conservative people are intolerant, but the conservatives are way ahead in violent expression of their beliefs.

  11. Thanks for illustrating Robert’s point.

  12. Wow Cardinal, I’ve got to 2nd Bart on that one – way to illustrate a point! My goodness.

    If you read the article, a couple of teachers obliquely commented (and not positively), so it’s not just a middle school thing. I have a couple of family members who moved from conservative areas of the midwest in large part because they are liberal and didn’t like always being in the minority and hated hearing conservative stuff being spouted like it was so self-obvious that only a moron wouldn’t agree. These two now live in very liberal areas. They have both told me that they are often made uncomfortable by the anger, vitriol and lack of tolerance of many of the liberal people they meet. These are people who they generally agree with in principle, but who they find difficult to be around nonetheless. My one sister tried to get involved in an environmental group in her city but left in disgust because the liberal city dwellers refused to make common cause with the conservative, rural hunters, fishers and campers who wanted to work on the same issues. I think tolerance is a balance the left hasn’t quite gotten the hang of. But if conservatives can learn to let go of their hatred of long-haired, pot smoking hippies, then perhaps the left can learn to moderate its hatred of conservative, religious middle Americans.

  13. superdestroyer says:

    Cardinal Fang,

    I guess you are going to refuse to count the riots in LA, DC, Detroit, Chicago, and NYC. If you want to see intoleratnce, I guess you plan on skipping over the looting and buring of Detroit becasue blacks did not get their way. You should also look at the recent gay protests in California as intolerant.

  14. Rebeccat,

    Interesting that your sister left the environmental group because she could no longer tolerate their ideas/behaviors for making progress on the issues. That could’ve been quite reasonable as I think its clear from the definition of the word that toleration has its limits. Which leads me to the point that our judgement defines what we’ll tolerate, what we won’t tolerate or for how long we’ll tolerate something. So I’d expect people confronted with an accusation of intolerance will mostly think it’s nonsense until they judge a situation differently. Wouldn’t surprise me if that has something to do with the yes-no argument on this blog about who’s the most tolerant.

    I think a related topic has been studied by a professor at the University of Virgina, Jonathan Haidt. Here’s a link to an article he co-authored:

    http://faculty.virginia.edu/haidtlab/articles/haidt.graham.2007.when-morality-opposes-justice.pdf

    And if you prefer to watch a short lecture:

    http://www.ted.com/index.php/talks/jonathan_haidt_on_the_moral_mind.html

    The basic idea is that conservatives rely on more diverse types of moral intuitions than liberals and hence liberals are more expressive of the moral intuitions they share with conservatives. I’d guess this work would conclude that liberals have less need of tolerance because they aren’t as easily disgusted as conservatives — I’m assuming that if something doesn’t bother you there’s not much sense in saying you tolerate it –. But if conservatives live in a society where authority supports tolerance and tolerance is seen as the ideal, then they are more likely to actually put up with the suffering required of toleration. Oh well, just a guess and you have the link if you think what I said is nonsense but you’re still curious to know more.

    Definition of tolerance from Mirriam-Webster

    1: capacity to endure pain or hardship : endurance , fortitude , stamina
    2 a: sympathy or indulgence for beliefs or practices differing from or conflicting with one’s own b: the act of allowing something : toleration
    3: the allowable deviation from a standard ; especially : the range of variation permitted in maintaining a specified dimension in machining a piece
    4 a (1): the capacity of the body to endure or become less responsive to a substance (as a drug) or a physiological insult especially with repeated use or exposure ; also : the immunological state marked by unresponsiveness to a specific antigen (2): relative capacity of an organism to grow or thrive when subjected to an unfavorable environmental factor b: the maximum amount of a pesticide residue that may lawfully remain on or in food

    http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/tolerance

  15. Matthew Shepard was murdered during a botched robbery, NOT because he was homosexual. 20/20 had a program about this a few years back: http://abcnews.go.com/2020/Story?id=277685&page=1

  16. Mrs. Davis says:

    Wow, everybody gets to bash the other side’s tolerance. Sounds like a validation of Catherine’s experiment.

  17. Let’s drop this fiction that somehow conservatives are more tolerant than liberals. My husbands car was twice vandalized after he put a liberal bumper sticker on it. We are sure the vandalism was inspired by political intolerance because the vandal was kind enough to leave a note telling us what he thought of our beliefs. Ignorant jerks hold a wide range of political beliefs, no one side has a monopoly on intolerance.

  18. Robert Wright says:

    pm, that’s really good, interesting information.

    Thanks for posting it.

  19. Actually, Mrs. Davis, I have to disagree with you this time. Respectful debate is a healthy, good thing and I think that’s what’s happening on this thread — not “bashing”. I can disagree with everyone here (I don’t) and yet hope the best for them and enjoy the conversation. What young Catherine found were other students wishing her harm and responding hatefully for appearing to have a different view. Personally, I find these situations entirely different.

  20. Cardinal Fang says:

    Superdestroyer, I was limiting myself to instances where people died.

    Wait–I’m supposed to look at yesterday’s peaceful gay protests as intolerant, but not think that Mormon-backed legislation stripping away gays’ civil rights is equally intolerant, and to much greater affect?

    I’m perfectly willing to grant that majorities like to harass minorities, but this is true of all sides. Imagining that conservatives don’t harass liberals in Oklahoma or Alabama? It is to laugh. Try going through Oklahoma with a gay rights or abortion rights sticker on your car and report back to me how that goes.

  21. Miller Smith says:

    I am against gay marrage. Can you guess why? If you thought that I hated gay people or at the very least I did not want them to have the same rights as breeders you would be wrong…and an intorlerant bigot.

    I am against legal marrage for all people in all cases. The government of a free people has no reason or rational to register relationships in any way or provide benifits to any person based on what kind of relationships the people have chosen in a free will fashion. The government of a free people has no buisiness treating anyone diferently base upon whom they are committed to.

    All individual in a free society have the right and duty to be treated by the government as individuals. There is no rational possible for doing otherwise.

  22. I would rather drive through the entire state of Oklahoma with a gay rights sticker than drive through Frisco with a “Yes on 8” one.

  23. superdestroyer says:

    Cardinal Fang,

    53 people died in LA in 1992 when the LA riots occurred because blacks did not get their way. The same can be said for a large number of riots in the 1960’s.

    If you are going to talk about lynchings, please include all of the black on white crimes commited in the U.S. every year and the low conviction rates involved with those crimes.

  24. . The government of a free people has no reason or rational to register relationships in any way or provide benifits to any person based on what kind of relationships the people have chosen in a free will fashion.

    Person is in a coma in hospital. Parents chose one course of treatment. Person’s housemate chooses another. Both sets claim their decision is what the unconscious person would have wanted. Let’s add that the housemate claims they were in a relationship, and the parents deny it and say the two were just housemates. How does the hospital decide who gets to make the medical decisions?

  25. My overly terse comment was in response to the sudden escalation from sign vandalism and rudeness to lynchings and bombings. If that’s going to be the course of the conversation, we might as well invoke Hitler, Stalin, Mao, and Godwin and be done with it.

    It would have been one thing to object to excessive generalizations about conservatives and liberals, but to do so by dragging in every possible use of the word ‘conservative’ merely plays into a stereotype.

    Incidentally, is it possible that the term ‘to be crucifixed’ actually refers to the movie The Exorcist? It would sort of make sense in context.

  26. Cardinal Fang says:

    OK, Bart, so your claim is liberals are ruder to conservatives than conservatives are to liberals? Or that conservatives don’t vandalize liberals’ political signs? All of us like to assume that our side is wonderful and never misbehaves and the other side is composed of malefactors, but in every group, there are some bad apples. You, I am sure, would not dream of being rude to a liberal to her face, nor would you vandalize your neighbor’s political, but sadly, not all conservatives are like you.

    There were entire threads on the Daily Kos devoted to how to protect Obama yard signs, for Obama supporters living in red states. In conservative areas, gays really do get harassed and beaten up for being gay. Rush Limbaugh really has a radio show carried on thousands of networks, in which he abuses liberals daily. These problems exist, as problems also exist in predominantly liberal communities where some liberals misbehave toward conservatives.

  27. Tracy W,

    Good point.

    Perhaps Miller Smith over spoke and there is something less than marriage that would solve the problems like the one you mentioned.

  28. Individuals from both sides can demonstrate intolerance, but liberals are the ones who are out there claiming to want “tolerance”. Rush Limbaugh and his ilk are certainly uncivil towards liberals but they’re not simultaneously pretending what they really desire is “tolerance”.

    I’m sick of being called “hateful” by people who themselves hate me for speaking out about my religious beliefs.

  29. Cardinal Fang says:

    And I’m sick of being called anti-American by conservative Christians who whine about being picked on for their religious beliefs but have no compunctions about shoving them down my throat, and who claim it’s “religious freedom” to deny people basic civil rights.

  30. Miller Smith says:

    Tracy W
    Nov 16th, 2008 at 12:52 pm
    . The government of a free people has no reason or rational to register relationships in any way or provide benifits to any person based on what kind of relationships the people have chosen in a free will fashion.

    Person is in a coma in hospital. Parents [not a freewill choice of the child] chose one course of treatment. Person’s housemate [if an adult, the person should have a living will and a contract with that housemate for such a situation. IOW, be responsible for yourself rather than have ‘daddy’ government make decision for you.] chooses another. Both sets claim their decision is what the unconscious person would have wanted. Let’s add that the housemate claims they were in a relationship [so what? What soule having a relationship with anyone give them any kind of right over you or you any right over them? How do you get a right due to a relationship?], and the parents deny it and say the two were just housemates [the dear almost departed should have made it clear who other than an involuntary relationship had these choices or made a choice well before. Why not have a living will that is executed by your attorney or the court? Why does a relationship grant any kind of authority over your or my life? How do you derived such a connection?]. How does the hospital decide who gets to make the medical decisions? [I have no living family and my wife died in 2001. I have many friends but not a single person who would presently qualify as being in a relationship with me or me with them. Pray tell how does the hospital handle my situation now?]

  31. Miller Smith says:

    Tracy W,
    At this very moment I literally have no living family and I am in no relationship at all. I have a living will that has the law firm that drafted it as the one’s to execute that will. The local hospitals respect the living will over any relationship or DNA family now. Why not simply go to that system?

    This idea that a ‘relationship’ (a.k.a. someone I live with-sexual activity not necessary if one is to believe the b.s.) grants me a right over my partner’s life is outrageous. Why? Such things should be in the hands of a disinterested party. This is not an emotional decision but rather a medical decision that should follow strict logical guidelines and the wishes of the person who’s life it is.

    Living wills that are executed by disinterested parties under strict logical and medical criteria is the way to go. Don’t be wimp out on making this decision by ‘marrying’ someone. Why dump it on them? That is cruel and selfish.

    Hook up with whom you like and don’t ask for governmental approval. And, pray tell, WHY would you seek governmental approval in the first place? Ever think about that? Just what is the point? Please spell it out.

    Thank you

  32. Cardinal Fang says:

    The present controversy is not whether marriage should be sanctioned by the state, but whether someone is permitted to marry a person of either gender. I’m just guessing, Miller, that you don’t support legalized gay marriage– or legalized straight marriage. That’s quite a different matter than saying that it’s perfectly all right if Brad and Angelina marry, but in the name of religious freedom, Ellen and Portia cannot.

  33. I wish I were surprised. Unfortunately, after that little old lady got roughed up by a group of protesters in Florida, I’m not seeing a lot of respect and tolerance from the left. The liberal illuminati make it pretty clear in the media that viewpoints other than their own are “backwater,” “uneducated,” or “racist.”

  34. Faileth Miller Smith:

    [if an adult, the person should have a living will and a contract with that housemate for such a situation. IOW, be responsible for yourself rather than have ‘daddy’ government make decision for you.]

    The contract establishes a relationship recognized by the law, which is what you claim to oppose.

  35. Mrs. Lopez says:

    Brad and Angelina are married?!?

  36. Miller T. Smith says:

    Engineer-Poet,
    Incorrect. I oppose a special government sanctioned contract that gives right and privileges to selected groups of people.

    You may enter into a contract with someone if you wish. You merely have to spell out the details of that contract rather than take the off-the-shelf one. Don’t you want to spell out the rights and responsibilities of yourself and your mate or mates (not a joke, for real, more than one, not kidding, that multiple relationships are not recognized as traditional sinks the gay marriage argument, so let’s be consistent)?

    No more government marriage for anyone. Get the government out of the relationship business. The government only enforces the contracts that all parties negotiated and entered into on a totally free-will basis. No off the shelf b.s.

    IOW, everybody grow up and make your own decisions.

  37. Cardinal Fang says:

    Miller, you bring up the idea that if same-sex marriages are allowed in law, what about poly marriages involving more than two people? But think this through.

    There won’t be a groundswell for legalizing poly marriages because there’s no simple thing that poly marriage could be. Everyone knows what a same-sex marriage is: two men or two women get married, and then they have all the same rights that an opposite sex couple would have: a person can have at most one spouse, they can claim each on their income taxes, one inherits if the other dies, they are both legal parents of all children born or adopted into the marriage, they have hospital visitation privileges and count as each other’s next of kin, laws govern their potential divorce and so forth. Some people don’t approve of same-sex marriage, but not because they don’t know what it is.

    Things are not so simple for a poly trio. Suppose Adam, Becky and Carl are in a poly marriage. Are Adam and Carl married to each other, or do they each just have one wife while Becky has two husbands? If Adam wants a divorce but the other two don’t, what happens to the marriage assets and the kids? If Becky has a kid by Adam, is that Carl’s kid too? If Becky is in a coma and Adam and Carl disagree on her treatment, who wins? If Adam wants to now marry Debbie while staying in the marriage with Becky and Carl, do they have a veto?

    How could anyone advocate for legalizing poly marriage when we don’t even know what it is?

  38. Richard Aubrey says:

    Matthew Shepard was the poster child for the self-proclaimed zealots of tolerance. His death allowed them to pat themselves on the back in public.
    Jesse Dirkhising, on the other hand, was a nothing.
    Just as dead. Lineup was wrong.
    No liberals would dare complain about his death. Might cost them tolerance points.
    When you think about the discrepancy, you just have to lose every conceivable bit of respect liberals ever, ever hoped to have.

  39. Miller T. Smith says:

    Cardinal Fang Wrote: (my comments in[])
    Miller, you bring up the idea that if same-sex marriages are allowed in law, what about poly marriages involving more than two people? But think this through.

    There won’t be a groundswell for legalizing poly marriages because there’s no simple thing that poly marriage could be. [Yes there is. Such an arrangement will be determined in detail by the partners involved, NOT by a off-the-shelf contract dictated by the government] Everyone knows what a same-sex marriage is: two men or two women get married, and then they have all the same rights that an opposite sex couple would have: a person can have at most one spouse [says who? Seriously, why is this standard we must follow? You obviously don’t want to follow a standard of man/woman, so why do you want to follow an “only one spouse” standard?], they can claim each on their income taxes [NO! No one will be treated differently in regards to taxes because of whom they are with as a relationship. There is no reason for it to exist.], one inherits if the other dies [NO! Only if they share common property by contract at purchase. Otherwise a Will determines what will happen to the property of the dead partner.], they are both legal parents of all children born or adopted into the marriage [NO! Only the biologicals are the default legal parents of any children on this planet. Adoption proceedings and all attendant procedures that go with adoption are the only way to make multiple non-biological parents a legal part of a child’s life. I want a signature on a contract and no some amorphous set of rules to be determined ‘after’ a breakup. Best to determine responsibilities and rights BEFORE you have or get a child…like adults are supposed to do.], they have hospital visitation privileges [you put that in a living will and a contract you have with your partners. We only have a law that requires hospitals to follow the contract. My state already has this as an option in you living will and a list you can put down on your admissions forms.] and count as each other’s next of kin, laws govern their potential divorce and so forth [Contracts trumps law. Your contract will determine what happens in the event of a break-up. You make these decisions BEFORE you decide to cohabit…you know, like an adult.]. Some people don’t approve of same-sex marriage, but not because they don’t know what it is [Under my schema approval by others is not an issue. My relationships and the number of partners and organization of those relationships are no one else’s business but mine and my partners. No one has the right to veto the kinds and types of free-will relationships I may have or dictate the conditions of our contracts with each other].

    Things are not so simple for a poly trio. Suppose Adam, Becky and Carl are in a poly marriage. Are Adam and Carl married to each other, or do they each just have one wife while Becky has two husbands? If Adam wants a divorce but the other two don’t, what happens to the marriage assets and the kids? If Becky has a kid by Adam, is that Carl’s kid too? If Becky is in a coma and Adam and Carl disagree on her treatment, who wins? If Adam wants to now marry Debbie while staying in the marriage with Becky and Carl, do they have a veto? [All covered in your living will, Regular Will, and the laws that determine child support. In fact, if you have two biologicals and one or two adoptive parents for one or more children then there is greater access to resources for those children. Right now we have at most two. Right now we have many a man adopting the children of a woman they marry and they have to do so via legal adoption. We can use this system with little change for my way of living.]

    How could anyone advocate for legalizing poly marriage when we don’t even know what it is? [If you don’t know what it is, how do you know its name? Violation of the Law of Non-contradiction]

    [My system provides unlimited choice of free-will relationships in the form and fashion as you wish. Your relationships are your business and other people’s are their business. No more dictating to other people how they are to be related by law based on what the majority happen to favor at any moment. Maximum Freedom and Choice for All!]

  40. Andy Freeman says:

    > How could anyone advocate for legalizing poly marriage when we don’t even know what it is?

    It’s more than two people married to one another. Christmas with the in-laws is a scheduling nightmare, hilariously portrayed in a Chevey Chase comeback movie.

    Glad to help.

  41. Like several here when I originally read the article I wondered what the response to this experiment would have been in a conservative school? Since it wasn’t done we don’t know but I think that most of us can agree that intolerance exists across the political spectrum as does tolerance.

    However I do think Crimson Wife is on a good point — liberals often make the promotion of tolerance one of their rallying points and pride themselves on their belief in their own tolerance. And those liberals that are most intolerant of conservatives views are often the ones proclaiming tolerance the loudest. (Interestingly enough, in my experience the liberals who aren’t as vocal about their tolerance are often the most tolerant)

    Intolerant conservatives rarely claim to be tolerant. It doesn’t make it right but it does make it consistent. (Tolerant conservatives, like tolerant liberals, rarely talk about it, they just do it.)

    Maybe we need to start replacing “tolerance” with “respect”. As was pointed out in a previous entry when we tolerate someone’s views then we are “putting up with” or enduring — as with pain or some other bad thing. Respecting someone’s views doesn’t imply sacrifice — just an acknowledgement that everyone is entitled to their own opinion whether it agrees with ours or not.

  42. I could have saved her the time, effort and trouble. You can go by the rule of thumb that the more people talk about tolerance the more intolerant of others they are.