Over the last two weeks we have welcomed new and returning students to our brand-new campus. From the outside, this period of time appears frenetic, chaotic, and incredibly noisy. During this period, I feel as if I am constantly talking; explaining, indicating, signposting, answering questions and offering solutions. All of this is necessary, after all we’re all in a new place, the only difference is that some of us moved in before others. This part of my role has, on the surface, little to do with Criminology. However, once the housekeeping is out of the way we can move to more interesting criminological discussion.
For me, this focuses on the posing of questions and working out ways in which answers can be sought. It’s a common maxim, that within academia, there is no such thing as a silly question and Criminology is no exception (although students are often very sceptical). When you are studying people, everything becomes complicated and complex and of course posing questions does not necessarily guarantee a straightforward answer. As many students/graduates over the years will attest, criminological questions are often followed by yet more criminological questions… At first, this is incredibly frustrating but once you get into the swing of things, it becomes incredibly empowering, allowing individual mental agility to navigate questions in their own unique way. Of course, criminologists, as with all other social scientists, are dependent upon the quality of the evidence they provide in support of their arguments. However, criminology’s inherent interdisciplinarity enables us to choose from a far wider range of materials than many of our colleagues.
So back to the questions…which can appear from anywhere and everywhere. Just to demonstrate there are no silly questions, here are some of those floating around my head currently:
- This week I watched a little video on Facebook, one of those cases of mindlessly scrolling, whilst waiting for something else to begin. It was all about a Dutch innovation, the Tovertafel (Magic Table) and I wondered why in the UK, discussions focus on struggling to feed and keep our elders warm, yet other countries are interested in improving quality of life for all?
- Why, when with every fibre of my being, I abhor violence, I am attracted to boxing?
3. Why in a supposedly wealthy country do we still have poverty?
4. Why do we think boys and girls need different toys?
5. Why does 50% of the world’s population have to spend more on day-to-day living simply because they menstruate?
6. Why as a society are we happy to have big houses with lots of empty rooms but struggle to house the homeless?
7. Why do female ballroom dancers wear so little and who decided that women would dance better in extremely high-heeled shoes?
This is just a sample and not in any particular order. On the surface, they are chaotic and disjointed, however, what they all demonstrate is my mind’s attempt to grapple with extremely serious issues such as inequality, social deprivation, violence, discrimination, vulnerability, to name just a few.
So, to answer the question posed last week by @manosdaskalou, ‘What are Universities for?’, I would proffer my seven questions. On their own, they do not provide an answer to his question, but together they suggest avenues to explore within a safe and supportive space where free, open and academic dialogue can take place. That description suggests, for me at least, exactly what a university should be for!
And if anyone has answers for my questions, please get in touch….
Hi Paula. I am glad to see that you are still challenging your new students to think outside the box. I acquired that skill from you and manos while studying under your tutorship and for that I thank you both. We as a society fail to question why the people in power do and say certain things, things that can affect people’s everyday lives. In my job working with people with serious mental illness I have begun to ask so many questions to which it is so difficult to find a rational answer. I do however challenge the people above me for answers no matter how uncomfortable it appears to make them feel. I found it totally empowering to be able to ask what you so brilliantly put as ‘ a stupid question’ because as you know and I know now there is no such thing. The day that we cease to ask questions of the people in positions of authority is the day we say we are giving up our individuality and our independence and giving that power to those above us. I hope your new and returning students remember what you tell them as I hope they will benefit as I did. Thanks again and as I said previously I am available to come and talk with your students whenever you feel it would be appropriate and helpful. See you soon as would love to come and see new campus.
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What a fantastic comment, Trevor, thank you. I think once you lose your fear of asking questions, it becomes a habit. By breaking down the barriers that keep us all silent, we all have a stake in the conversation about our society. I’ve been talking to students this week about how Criminology (despite it’s dark subject matter) is a hopeful discipline. That we have the freedom to move the conversation beyond what is, to what might be. Once we start to consider what might be, we can start to make the world a better, more hopeful place 🙂
Haven’t forgotten about getting you into talk to the students, I’d love to hear about your work. If you fancy coming for a visit before that, drop me an email and we’ll get something in the diary.