• Question: Do you agree with the laws written and if not why?

    Asked by jasmineday12 to Catriona, Damien, Hannah, James, Jason, Nayeli, Sarah, Sophie, Zaf on 31 Jan 2018.
    • Photo: Damien Hall

      Damien Hall answered on 31 Jan 2018:

      I agree with most laws that I’m aware of, but it’s a difficult question to answer because I haven’t read all of them! I don’t think anyone has, probably.

      Most scientists probably also have a few laws that they know about and that they don’t agree with, in their specialist area. So my specialist area is linguistics (the science of how language works), and within that, French linguistics in particular (how French works). That means I know about the laws about what you’ve got to study at school, and for how long. So I know that, at one point, it used to be compulsory to study a foreign language all the way to GCSE when you’re 15-16. Now, it’s only compulsory up to the end of Key Stage 3, when you’re 14. I think that’s a bad thing, because the UK (and the world) needs as many people who speak foreign languages as possible! It’s not fair to expect everyone else to speak English, and also it makes a really good impression if native speakers of other languages see English-speakers making an effort to speak their language, rather than forcing them to speak English. So, by speaking someone else’s language, you can understand them better and have better relationships with them. I think that the fact that it’s not compulsory to get a GCSE in a foreign language any more could well harm the UK’s relations with people abroad, so I don’t agree with that one.

    • Photo: Catriona Silvey

      Catriona Silvey answered on 1 Feb 2018:

      That’s a complicated question to answer! It’s the sort of question we should all ask ourselves from time to time. Laws aren’t a universal, constant set of rules defining what’s right and what’s wrong – it’s easy to see this by thinking of things that used to be illegal but which nowadays most people agree are not wrong, like gay marriage, or that used to be legal but which most people now support banning, like smoking in enclosed public spaces. There are also some laws still on the books which clearly belong to another time – e.g. it’s still illegal to wear armour inside the Houses of Parliament, and it’s technically illegal to be drunk in a pub! So while we all need to be aware of the current laws and the consequences for breaking them, it’s also important to think about the ones we don’t agree with and what we can do to push for change. For me personally, I disagree with some of the laws around immigration into the UK, which I think are overly restrictive – science is a very international job, and it’s frustrating to see colleagues sometimes struggling to be allowed to stay in the country despite the huge contributions they make. But this is a topic many people have different opinions on!