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Education and Tolerance

A Comparative Quantitative Analysis of the Educational Effect on Tolerance


Lenka Drazanova

This book examines to what extent the effect of education on political and social tolerance varies cross-nationally. It gives an inventory of micro- and macro- level factors moderating this effect. The empirical analysis is based on comparative surveys across 24 and 33 countries at two time points. Results indicate that the positive effect of education does not always overcome the negative effects of personality characteristics and low socio-economic status. Moreover, education contributes to more tolerant views only in countries with certain political, socio-economic and cultural background. Overall, the book argues that there are several micro- and macro-level conditions that should be fulfilled before one may proclaim education as the universal problem solver.

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2. Theories Explaining the “Liberalising” Effect of Education on Attitudes and Values


2.1 Introduction

Democracy is based on certain principles. The crucial and necessary dimension of democracy is freedom, but most theorists (see for example Dahl (1956); Downs (1957); Morlino (2004); Bühlmann et al. (2008)) stress that democracy also assumes equality.1 Entailed in a democratic position is thus a basic respect for other people – including those who deviate from one’s own norms. As for example Weldon rightly points out, “(t)olerance, like liberty and equality, is a fundamental principle of the liberal democratic creed. It requires citizens to uphold and secure the rights of groups, even those they find objectionable, to participate fully in political, social, and economic life” (Weldon 2006, 331) (for a similar argument, see also Gibson (1992); Stenner (2008); Marquart-Pyatt and Paxton (2007)). Intolerance appears to set at least some constrains on the freedom available to ordinary citizens, which consequently leads to the political system ultimately loosing its democratic creed.

At least in democratic political systems, different forms of political participation and the subsequent representation and influence in politics are “systematically biased in favour of more privileged citizens – those with higher incomes, greater wealth, and better education” (Lijphart 1997, 1). These findings even led some theorists to conclude that the stability of the democratic systems in fact relies substantially on the indifference of the poorly educated. In short, these theorists argue that the antidemocratic and intolerant mass public is generally immobilised by its own apathy and ignorance, while the relatively more democratic...

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