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Beyond Classroom Walls

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3. Beyond Classroom Walls: Building a Culture of Peace in Your School and Community

Guiding Questions

As you read this section, think of the following questions:


  • What is the current culture of peace at my school?
  • What would the ideal culture of peace be like at my school?
  • What are some strategies that I can use to help promote a culture of peace?
  • What are the challenges to a culture of peace in my school or community? 
  • How can my school be a catalyst for building a culture of peace in the greater community? 



War is not inherent in human beings. We learn war and we learn peace. The culture of peace is something which is learned, just as violence is learned and war culture is learned.
- Elise Boulding


While implementing peace education is an important step towards building a culture of peace, our efforts should not simply stop inside the classroom. The goal is not just to learn about peace, but to build a culture of peace. In order to truly promote a culture of peace, we must go beyond the classroom walls and extend this effort to our entire school, community, and the wider world. Although our peace education efforts might start in our classroom, we should try to get the whole school and community involved.


According to the United Nations, "The Culture of Peace is a set of values, attitudes, modes of behaviour and ways of life that reject violence and prevent conflicts by tackling their root causes to solve problems through dialogue and negotiation among individuals, groups and nations" (UNESCO, 2010). Building a culture of peace in your school means striving to manifest peace education in action and behavior in daily life. A key component of peace education is modeling these values, attitudes, behaviors and ways of life, by turning knowledge and theory into action.


When students are exposed to peace education, the way they are engaged in learning should reflect the values that this education imparts. For this reason, it is essential to not only teach about peace within the classroom but to also create a culture of peace in the school.  This means that all of the values that have been defined throughout this curriculum must be incorporated into activities and interactions throughout the school.  Below are various techniques for how to build a culture of peace in your school, and examples of how schools have created a culture of peace effectively, which can help guide you in determining how to implement such a culture in your classroom and in your school.  


Please note that although this curriculum separates the process for building a culture of peace into stages of assessment, vision, and strategies, in practice these stages do not need to take place in a linear fashion.  


Teaching a culture of peace does not mean teaching students to eschew violence by avoiding disagreements and conflict.  Rather, teaching a culture of peace is about teaching students self-inquiry, mindfulness, and relationship-building, in spite of disagreements and/or conflict. 

Seeking Support

Perhaps you are taking this course as part of a school-wide effort to integrate peace education, and your school is already trying to make peace education a school-wide effort. Or perhaps you are taking this course independently, and may be the only teacher in your school who is learning about peace education. Either way, to be a catalyst for change in our schools, we need to seek out allies who can help us promote a culture of peace – other teachers, administrators, or even parents. Building a culture of peace is not something that we can do alone. It takes the help of others.


One idea is to make “Building A Culture of Peace” a classroom project or theme for the school year. You can do projects throughout the year – for example, use a hallway at school for a peace education poster gallery, or put on a performance of Theater of the Oppressed. Use your classroom as a demonstration and, the end of the year, propose that the whole school take on this initiative. Through your efforts, you can demonstrate the success of this project, and garner the support of others in your school community.


Alternatively, you can start right away by seeking the support of other teachers or administrators. You can share this resource with them, and perhaps form a study circle or discussion group. The sooner you can get support, the faster the culture of peace will grow.

Culture of Peace Assessment: Where Are We Now?

An important step in creating a culture of peace in the school is to assess the current culture of peace. In his book World Peace Through the Town Hall, David Adams (2009) explains how culture of peace assessment can be carried out at the local level. He provides a comprehensive framework which can be adapted and applied to school settings. Adams (2009) emphasizes the importance of the assessment process as being community-driven and community-educating. This means that the assessment process should be led by community members and inclusive of all community members. Through this process all community members will come to a greater understanding about a culture of peace. In a school setting, this means that all members - students, teachers, administrators, non-academic staff, parents - should be involved in assessing the current culture and envisioning what an ideal culture of peace would look like.


The first step in culture of peace assessment is defining the culture of peace. You should try to answer the question: What is it that we are aiming for? The earlier section on culture of peace explores several different frameworks that can be used to guide community members towards a culture of peace concept for their setting. Adams (2009) advocates for using the UNESCO model for a universally-accepted approach and applicability. For example, in order to adapt the UNESCO model to the school context, the area of international peace and security could be changed to local peace and security. As this process is educative, it is important for the community to understand the concepts of a culture of peace, and to define a culture of peace as relevant to them. 


Once you have determined the framework or definition for a culture of peace, you can use an assessment tool to guide your inquiry to the question Where are we now? Possible tools include questionnaires, art projects, class discussions, and focus groups. Here are some examples of questionnaires that can be used to assess the culture of peace. The questions outlined below can also be used in other types of assessment formats.

1) Canadian Centres for Teaching Peace have developed a culture of peace assessment tool that can be used to develop assessment indicators. This tool can be used on its own, or it can be used to develop indicators, which would then be used in another questionnaire or data collection method.


2) Another questionnaire strategy is to take your school’s “temperature” on peace, human rights, multiculturalism, or any of the other sub-categories within this peace curriculum.  The University for Minnesota Human Rights Center has developed a human rights temperature questionnaire. There is a questionnaire in which students, teachers, staff, administrators and parents/guardians are asked to assess (on a scale of 1 to 4) if various rights from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) are part of their school’s culture.  These questions can be easily adapted to relate to any other area of peace education as well as to the reality of your school.  


3) You can also develop your own survey or assessment method, based on your community's definition of a culture of peace. At the end of this section there are some sample questions to assess a culture of peace. These questions address the values, attitudes, modes of behavior and ways of life referred to in the UNESCO definition of a culture of peace.

These questions are addressed to community members. However, the questionnaire could be adapted for different groups of the community that would have commonalities in their experience, for example, students, teachers, staff, parents, etc.

While these questions are in the form of a questionnaire, this is just one way that community members can be involved in the assessment. Some people prefer to participate in writing, as perhaps they communicate most effectively in writing. Others prefer anonymity. However, additional methodologies should be included, such as interviews, art projects, group discussions or focus groups. These questions could serve as a guide for interviews or discussion. In a culture of peace assessment, using different modes of assessment allows community members to participate in different ways, and would strengthen the overall assessment process.

The question categories are based on the UNESCO culture of peace framework (category 8 is changed from “international peace and security” to “local peace and security”). The main strength of this framework is that it is the most universally recognized, as it was developed by the United Nations. However, as a community, you may wish to include additional components used in other models. Please see the Culture of Peace section for additional models.

It should be noted that a culture of peace is a constant process, and thus requires continuous (perhaps annual) assessment in order to progress. If such an assessment is carried out annually, you can monitor your progress towards a culture of peace, and adopt policies and programs that strengthen the areas that are already strong, and support the areas where the culture of peace may be weaker.

Culture of Peace Vision: Where Do We Want To Go?

After completing the first step of culture of peace assessment, the community should envision what an ideal culture of peace would look like. Techniques used in Futures Education could be used to guide the community towards a collective vision of a culture of peace. For example, you could hold a one-day workshop through which community members would envision an ideal culture of peace. Questions about each area of a culture of peace could guide the workshop:

  • What would education look like under a culture of peace?
  • What would our school look like if sustainable development principles (such as those in the Earth Charter) were integrated?
  • What would our school look like if human rights were respected and promoted across the community?
  • What would our school look like with perfect gender equality?
  • What would our school look like with participatory communication and a free flow of information? What would community-wide communication look like in a culture of peace? What would interpersonal communication look like in a culture of peace? 
  • What would our school look like if understanding, tolerance, and solidarity were integrated?
  • What would our school look like with increased democratic participation?
  • What would our school look like with increased local peace, security, and safety? 


These questions can also be expanded to encourage students to envision what a culture of peace in their community beyond school walls would look like (i.e. family, town, city, country).


The arts could be used as a creative technique to envision the culture of peace. For example, you could ask students to draw a picture of what the culture of peace would look like, and then ask students to share their drawings and talk about them.


Strategies for a Culture of Peace in Your School
Once you have established where you are on the culture of peace spectrum and where you want to go, you need to develop strategies for how to progress towards a culture of peace. Here are some suggestions for how to promote a culture of peace in your school. A culture of peace can be promoted in many ways, and you should be as creative as possible.

One idea for the overall promotion of a culture of peace would be to highlight one culture of peace area per month, and to focus activities on that area for the month (for example, you could use March as Gender Equality month, in conjunction with International Women’s Day).

1. Education

  • Integrate peace education pedagogies in all subject areas.
  • Allow lots of space for student-led activities, dialogue.
  • Ensure that the materials learned are applied to students’ lives.
  • Incorporate service learning, experiential learning.
  • Create a balanced, equal relationship between all community members, and all community members value the knowledge of others.
  • Develop a school charter/classroom charter with the students that adheres to the culture of peace principles, and that everyone can agree to.

2. Sustainable Economic and Social Development

3. Human Rights

  • Celebrate International Human Rights Day (December 10).
  • Ensure that your school is accessible to people of different abilities.
  • Promote free speech in conjunction with participatory information and the free flow of information.
  • Hold workshops/events on diversity, equality, discrimination, and other human rights-related themes.
  • Incorporate the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) into the curriculum (see Appendix).

4. Equality between men and women

  • Celebrate International Women’s Day (March 8).
  • Mainstream gender equality in the curriculum.
  • Ensure that girls are receiving equal access to education and resources (for example, if you live in an area where girls’ enrollment is low, work towards increasing girls’ enrollment).
  • Promote gender equality in staff (such as gender parity, equal pay).

5. Democratic participation

  • Encourage democratic decision-making at all levels of the school (i.e, student body, have student representatives on committees).
  • Promote the democratic participation of students in their learning process.
  • Take a field trip to local government offices for students to learn about the democratic process in action in their community.

6. Participatory communication and the free flow of information

  • Develop varied methods of communication within your school (web site, newsletter, announcements, radio broadcasts, etc, depending on the media available in your area).
  • Promote student involvement in communications, such as through a student web site, newsletter, newspaper, radio show, etc.
  • Integrate nonviolent communication training and skill-building for all community members.

7. Understanding, tolerance and solidarity

  • Integrate multicultural understanding programs as part of the curriculum or extracurricular activities.
  • Promote solidarity by finding a “sister school” in another part of the world (can be done through a pen pal exchange between students, or if computers are accessible, online).
  • Integrate anti-racism education into the curriculum.

8. Local peace and security

  • Celebrate International Day of Peace (September 21).
  • Integrate nonviolent conflict resolution training for all community members.
  • Develop a school-wide peer mediation program.

Culture of Peace Examples from Around the World

Northern Ireland and the Middle East

Reports from the United Nations that focus on creating a culture of peace emphasize the importance of placing students together who are typically separated by society.  This can be through giving girls and boys equal opportunities or by placing students from groups that are in conflict (example: Israelis and Palestinians) in the same location.  The idea is that when students work together within a school setting they will create a peace that will emanate into the larger society.  The United Nations recommends that any projects in which students must work together (see the Cooperative Learning section for more on how to work together) can promote a culture of peace.  These activities can range from planting trees together or to planning trips, especially to areas that experience conflict (whether that conflict is completely different or incredibly similar to what the students experience in their home community).  One example can be seen in a group of youth from Northern Ireland (both Protestant and Catholic youth) who traveled to the Middle East to meet with Arab and Israeli youth and share experiences and solutions to the violence that they see in their lives (Global Youth Solidarity Fund and Programme, 2006). 



Oxfam International has funded a successful program for teaching peace education to elementary school students in Senegal (Hufstader, 2007).  In this program, creating a culture of peace within the school happens when the students are actively integrated into the structure of the school.  A student government body, which includes a minister of human rights, helps organize activities that promote peace within the school culture. 

School administrators and instructors, as well as peer mediators, also intervene when disagreements turn violent (in language or in actions) and work with all parties to develop a solution. 


Throughout Latin America, with the help of UNESCO, schools have taken on programs to promote a culture of peace to address the juvenile violence that exists throughout the region.  In Mexico, a primary school adopted a program which incorporated creating a culture of peace among its student body and also ensuring that the parents understood and worked with the culture of peace (UNESCO Santiago, 2001).  The students and their parents worked with various peace concepts for a period of time via reflections, drawings, games, lectures and analysis.  The school had great success in incorporating the values of peace into both the educational and the broader community.  A school in Aguascalientes, Mexico implemented school-wide workshops to discuss the human right of education for all, especially ensuring that marginalized communities had access. Through these workshops students also created an environment in which their opinions were listened to and valued and in which students grew to value civic participation as an integral aspect of both their education and their future.   


In Norway some schools have used music to create cross-cultural peace (Skyllstad, 2000).  Norway has a large immigrant population (mostly refugees and asylum seekers), and experiences tensions related to the heterogeneous population.  Therefore, some schools decided to adopt inter-ethnic musical programs to promote a culture of peace within their schools.  Music is an example of an activity that works well because it requires students from various backgrounds to work together.  When students work together to create music they create something that is greater than what they could have done alone.  They also bond and improve social skills.  Research of inter-ethnic music programs in Norway shows that they were incredibly successful in promoting a culture of peace within the schools where they were implemented. 


In the aftermath of the genocide in Rwanda, many NGOs have taken up the cause of promoting a culture of peace, both within the schools and outside the formal education system (Institut fur Friedenspadagogkik, 2010). These programs focus on creating structures that promote justice and national reconstruction. The programs are also currently moving towards incorporating more aspects of communication and conflict resolution skills. These education programs have been important in rebuilding Rwanda as a society based in peace, rather than conflict.

Challenges to Creating a Culture of Peace and How To Address Them (Wells, 2003) 

Materials and Time Constraints

One problem that peace educators encounter is that traditional textbooks or other materials ignore the contributions of peace makers and the ideas of peace. Most history books focus on battles and conflict, not peace. Additionally, school curricula may require teachers to focus on violent parts of human history. This entire curriculum is designed to provide teachers with the resources needed to help address the lack of books and information. With regards to curriculum, teachers must work to be creative in determining how to connect peace to what the students are learning. The Advocates for Human Rights have shown great success in connecting their human rights curricula to various State Standards. To see how they have achieved this, visit their website at http://www.mnadvocates.org/.

Basic Needs

One of the biggest impediments to all education is when students' basic needs – such as access to adequate, nutritious food, clean water and basic safety - are not met. This can be especially true for peace education since violence is a common result of poverty, and poverty is often the result of structural violence (see Negative and Positive Peace). When students encounter barriers to fulfilling their basic needs, teachers must work to empower students.


Within peace education, teachers can work with students to create change regarding the situations that they face. The Living Values Education Program (LVEP) was started to teach peace to children in refugee camps (Tillman, 2001).  Tillman (2001) describes this program as it was implemented in a Karen refugee camp. There were concerns expressed that teaching peace to the refugees would encourage them to choose nonviolence, which could endanger their lives. Therefore, peace education in the context of violence was framed with regards to rebuilding the country when the conflict was over. The LVEP program trained teachers to go and teach a culture of peace to the members of their camps. The teachers were trained to lead children in reflection activities in a safe environment and to experience peace, love and respect within the classroom. The students also discussed conflict and how it comes about, both from their personal perspectives and international perspectives. 

Internal/Inner/Personal Peace  

As mentioned above, peace is often neglected in education. However, internal or spiritual peace is ignored to a greater extent, even sometimes within the field of peace education.  Therefore, teachers must ensure that they are approaching their students with a holistic perspective so that students learn the importance of internal peace as well as external peace. Both the Flower model and the Integral model (see Culture of Peace section) include personal or inner peace as components to a culture of peace. Some techniques for the promotion of internal peace include: journaling; time for reflection (individually, in pairs or as a group); silent period/meditation; breathing exercises; art; yoga. The techniques used should be culturally appropriate for the setting in which you are teaching. However, as different techniques resonate with different people, you should expose students to as many different techniques as possible, and then perhaps set aside "personal peace" time, during which students could elect to engage in their preferred method of practicing personal peace. Furthermore, students should be encouraged to practice personal peace throughout their days and their lives, not just during the designated practice time. Incorporating these practices will create a more peaceful classroom environment.

Beyond School Walls

While building a culture of peace in your school is the first step, it is important that this project does not just stop at the school walls, but rather extend to the greater community. Many of the projects listed above included the participation of members of the wider community. Once you have started to build a comprehensive culture of peace program at your school, you can begin to extend this program to the outside community. However, this does not have to be a linear process, and the sooner you can include the wider community, the better.


One way to start is to create a Peace Zone around the school, perhaps using a one-block or two-block (100-200 meter) radius. A peace zone would be more than a weapons-free zone, but rather a zone where nonviolence, justice, equality, and environmental sustainability are promoted. 


The school can also use service learning opportunities to introduce culture of peace principles to the community. For example, the school could host a community event for promoting human rights or environmental sustainability, or students could promote international understanding and solidarity by holding a fundraiser for a marginalized or at-risk community. There are many ways that the school can be a catalyst and model for a community culture of peace - the only limit is your creativity!

Peace Education in Nonformal and Informal Sectors

Peace education is not just for the formal education sector. Although this program has focused on peace education for primary and secondary formal school settings, peace education can also happen in the nonformal and informal settings, and this is important for building a community culture of peace, and bringing peace education to all community members.


Nonformal education refers to education that explicitly occurs outside the formal school system. For example, this could include computing classes at a local library, language classes at a language center, or music classes at a cultural center. In nonformal education, the educating itself is still explicit, but it takes place outside the realm of state-supported schooling. An example of nonformal peace education in your community might be offering a workshop for adults on peace education (see suggestions below).


Informal education refers to education that takes place outside of the formal and nonformal sectors, and is education that is neither intentional nor planned. Perhaps the three most common realms of informal education are the family, peers, and the media. It is important not to underestimate the power of the informal sector in education. Educators should always be thinking of ways to engage the informal sector. For example, you could issue a press release to attract the local media to your peace education efforts, and this exposure would in turn educate the local community about peace education. You could also try to partner with a local radio station to interview you and your students about peace education.

Adult Education

As peace education is intended to be a path for life-long learning, it is important to consider the role of adult education in building a community culture of peace. While formal education plays an important role in values formation and skillbuilding for peace, children may return to their homes where they witness physical or verbal violence. Whenever possible, the parents of the children should be consulted and included in the curriculum. There are a few ways this can be done. One way would be to hold workshops, either in the evenings or on the weekends, for parents to develop similar skills to those that their children are being taught. Another way would be to create a peace education newsletter, which would serve as a means to inform the parents, and could also be a form of empowerment for the students by putting the newsletter design in their hands. You could also start a parents peace education study group that would be parent-run. There are many ways that the parents can be included and, ultimately, you should think about different ways that you can engage parents in supporting their children’s peace education.


What about the other adults in the community who do not have school-aged children? Eventually, it would be ideal to include programs that are available to all community members. The Inter-Agency Network for Education in Emergencies has developed a peace education community manual which is available for free online (http://ineesite.org/uploads/documents/store/subdoc_1_676_Facilitators_Manual_for_Community_Workshops.pdf). While it might be beyond the scope of your work to take on community initiatives, you could speak with other members of the community who might be able to support such a program.

Peace Education and Educating Cities

In order for peace education to truly take hold in the minds and hearts of students, it needs to be a community effort. One approach would be applying the principles of Educating Cities to your city, town or village. The goal of Educating Cities movement is to turn the city into a total intentional, positive learning environment, with the aim of promoting the development of all its inhabitants. This is based on the idea that all cities have the capacity to be educating, but often they educate in negative ways. The principles of Educating Cities include:

  • Investing in education so as to allow each individual to develop to their fullest potential as a human being;
  • Promoting the conditions for full equality so that everyone can feel respected, and everyone can enter into dialogue with others;
  • Unifying these factors so that city by city we can create a true knowledge society that can allow everyone to achieve their potential (International Association of Educating Cities, 1990).


In applying peace education principles to this concept, the city would make an intentional effort to promote peace education at all levels of society, and to make education the lens through which the city views itself.


Ultimately, the goal of peace education should be the transformation of society to a culture of peace, which will require the education and participation of all members of society. By expanding the culture of peace beyond your school walls, you can build a movement within your community and beyond to the wider world.


Adams, D. (2009). World Peace Through the Town Hall. Self-published Available at:     



Global Youth Solidarity Fund and Programme. (2006). Youth Cooperation for Culture    of Peace and Dialogue [Pamphlet]. Retrieved from: http://www.decade-culture-of-peace.org/report/YouthReport.pdf


Hufstader, C. (2007). Building a culture of peace in Senegal . Retrieved from Oxfam America website: http://www.oxfamamerica.org/articles/building-a-culture-of-peace-in-senegal


Institut fur Friedenspadagokik. (2010). Training in Teaching Methods in order to Reinforce a      Culture of Peace in Schools - Rwanda. Retrieved from: http://www.friedenspaedagogik.de/english/topics_of_the_institute_s_work/peace_education_projects/training_in_teaching_methods_in_order_to_reinforce_the_culture                _of_peace_in_schools_rwanda


International Association of Educating Cities. (1990). Charter of Educating Cities. 1st       International Congress of Educating Cities, Barcelona. Retrieved from http://www.bcn.es/edcities/aice/adjunts/Charter%20of%20Educating%20Cities%     202004.pdf


Skyllstad, K. (2000). Creating a Culture of Peace The Performing Arts in Interethnic Negotiations. In Intercultural Communications, November, issue 4. Retrieved from http://www.immi.se/intercultural/nr4/skyllstad.htm


Tillman, D. G. (2001). Educating for a Culture of Peace In Refugee Camps. In Childhood Education: International Focus Issue. Retrieved from: http://www.livingvalues.net/reference/docs-pdf/lvrefugee.pdf


UNESCO. (2010). Culture of Peace: What is It? Retrieved fro http://www3.unesco.org/iycp/uk/uk_sum_cp.htm


UNESCO Santiago. (2001). Cultura de Paz en la Escuela: Mejores Prácticas en la Prevención y Tratamiento de la Violencia Escola [The culture of peace in schools. Best practices in the prevention and treatment of school violence]. Retrieved from http://portal.unesco.org/geography/en/ev.php-URL_ID=8312&URL_DO=DO_TOPIC&URL_SECTION=201.html


University of Minnesota Human RIghts Resource Center. (2010). Taking Your Human Rights Temperature. Retrieved from                 http://www.hrusa.org/thisismyhome/project/temp.shtml


Wells, L. C. (2003). A Culture of Teaching Peace. Presented to the UNESCO Conference on Intercultural Education in Finland on June 16, 2003. Retrieved from: http://www.commondreams.org/views03/0616-01.htm


Culture of Peace Assessment – Sample Questions

1. Education

-          Do community members develop knowledge about peace?

-          Do community members value peace?

-          Do community members develop skills for peace in the classroom (i.e., nonviolent communication, conflict resolution, etc.)?

-          Do community members behave peacefully in the classroom? In common areas?

-          How are peace education principles integrated across the curriculum?

-          Are peace education pedagogies used?

-          What is the student-teacher relationship like?

2. Sustainable Economic and Social Development

-          Do community members learn about sustainable development?

-          Do community members value sustainable development?

-          Do community members develop skills for living sustainable development?

-          Do community members behave in ways that promote sustainable development?

3. Human Rights

-          Do community members develop knowledge about human rights?

-          Do community members value human rights?

-          Do community members develop skills to promote human rights?

-          Do community members behave in ways that promote their own human rights? the rights of others?

4. Equality between men and women

-          Do community members develop knowledge about gender equality?

-          Do community members value gender equality?

-          Do community members develop skills to promote gender equality?

-          Do community members behave in ways that promote gender equality?

5. Democratic participation

-          Do community members develop knowledge about democratic participation?

-          Do community members value gender democratic participation?

-          Do community members develop skills to promote democratic participation?

-          Do community members have the opportunity to participate democratically in decisions that affect them?

6. Participatory communication and the free flow of information

-          Do community members develop knowledge about democratic participation?

-          Do community members value gender democratic participation?

-          Do community members develop skills to promote democratic participation?

-          Do community members have the opportunity to participate democratically in decisions that affect them?


7. Understanding, tolerance* and solidarity

-          Do community members develop knowledge about understanding? tolerance? solidarity?

-          Do community members value understanding? tolerance? solidarity?

-          Do community members develop skills to promote understanding? tolerance? solidarity?

-          Do community members behave in ways that promote understanding? tolerance? solidarity?

8. Local peace and security

-          Do community members develop knowledge to promote local peace and security (i.e., conflict resolution, knowledge about safety)?

-          Do community members value local peace, security, and safety?

-          Do members develop skills to promote local peace, security, and safety (i.e, conflict resolution skills, safetly skills)?

-          Do members behave in ways that promote local peace, security and safety?

*You may wish to change the term “tolerance” to “respect” or “acceptance”. Sometimes “tolerance” may have a negative connotation (i.e., to put up with something). In any case, all of the terms used in these questions should be clearly defined and/or changed as relevant to the community.





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