Skip main navigation

Dangerous questions

Are some questions too dangerous too ask? Who decides which ones? What happens if you ask them? Watch scholars explain what happened to them.
Did you ever have a question that you wanted to ask but didn’t because you were afraid of what might happen– because you might be laughed at, because someone might get angry? Scholars and students around the world ask questions– questions about the environment, questions about health, questions about poverty and development, questions about justice, questions about truth. And the answers to those questions affect all of society. But sometimes, asking questions can be dangerous. Academic freedom protects the right to ask sensitive, even dangerous questions– not just scholars’ questions, but the freedom for you to think and ask questions that really matter. In this course, we’ll ask what academic freedom is and why it matters, not only to scholars, but to all of us.
We will talk about how you can promote academic freedom. And we want to know– what are your dangerous questions? In Yemen, the dangerous question to speak about the freedom, democracy, and human rights– to speak about the equality, citizenship equality, and to speak about justice. What’s a dangerous question? Perhaps questions of some illnesses– for example, what’s the value of human life? And questions that perhaps society is very uncomfortable with asking. The dangerous questions are asking anything related to the policy or the politics, and the reader, what they are doing. You cannot speak about democracy. You cannot speak any word against the policy. I guess a dangerous question would be a question that provokes, that questions might maybe a way of governing.
A dangerous question that I’ve been thinking about that might be difficult to come up with in an academic institution would be the question of corruption. The bigger danger is that you don’t try to explore more and that you try to restrict your freedom. If you say no, I’m not going to touch that topic, then this is a danger. I would rather go to choose the risky situation, which is maybe individual but not that threatful to society. There are no questions that are dangerous for Norwegian researchers to ask. Their academic freedom is protected by law. But we do have controversial and contested areas also in Norway. Science will always push boundaries.

Are some questions too dangerous too ask? Who decides which ones? What happens if you ask them? Watch scholars explain what happened to them.

This article is from the free online

Dangerous Questions: Why Academic Freedom Matters

Created by
FutureLearn - Learning For Life

Our purpose is to transform access to education.

We offer a diverse selection of courses from leading universities and cultural institutions from around the world. These are delivered one step at a time, and are accessible on mobile, tablet and desktop, so you can fit learning around your life.

We believe learning should be an enjoyable, social experience, so our courses offer the opportunity to discuss what you’re learning with others as you go, helping you make fresh discoveries and form new ideas.
You can unlock new opportunities with unlimited access to hundreds of online short courses for a year by subscribing to our Unlimited package. Build your knowledge with top universities and organisations.

Learn more about how FutureLearn is transforming access to education