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#tolerancemeans that everyone feels welcome in education

Updated: Apr 8

Meredith Frank, Undergraduate, Hofstra University


In my first year at Hofstra, I learned three unexpected lessons: My sociology professor never intended for anyone to relate to the article about the run-down public school, talking about my experience applying for scholarships somehow made me brave, and taking the free Hofstra Shuttle was uncool. While toiling away at my impoverished Metro Detroit public school, I knew a better life rested upon a 4.0 GPA and high SAT score. My mother warned me that Hofstra students came from a different tax bracket, and therefore, a different set of values than my Midwestern, working-class heart could compute. I spent my freshman year wishing that my differences were tolerated by my classmates, but now I’ve learned I must also be tolerant of them.


Meredith Frank, Undergraduate, Hofstra University

In a dialogue on tolerance, both parties must approach the table with a recognition of their differences, but leave emotion behind. This is easier said than done. Looking around my lectures, I see students around me predisposed with texting, online shopping, and general antipathy towards the lesson. I cannot help my jealousy. I am jealous that they are fourth-year students, a milestone I fear finances may prevent me from reaching. I am jealous that they can afford to put their grades at risk. But most of all I am jealous that they don’t see how fortunate they are to be in the classroom. The Constitution protects my right to equal educational opportunities, but it didn’t mandate my public school to have hot water or soap. After entire semesters without a teacher in multiple classes, I view the caliber of Hofstra’s education as a privilege, not a right. 


Sharing my experience has more often resulted in pity than tolerance. It seems that both sides believe they are correct. Those who don’t worry about making the next payment view me as an outlier who snuck into their world. Whereas I have an unwarranted belief that I should be held in higher regard than other students because of my struggles. Neither argument is one of tolerance, and both are blatantly incorrect.


I have learned that I should feel grateful and proud to receive an education, instead of holding my fellow students in contempt. I did not choose my disadvantaged upbringing, but they also did not select the advantages of theirs. Although they are different than me, I can work alongside my peers to create an atmosphere of tolerance. I can begin a dialogue about the barrier to higher education, introducing them to the unanticipated problems people in my world face when they are at a financial disadvantage, and they can provide the resources and connections to solve the problem. To me, tolerance is not just reluctant acceptance, or a pitying understanding. It is two sides coming together to make a difference.

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