The darker side of education

The values of education are continually celebrated within our society, but as the recent “crossbow cannibal” case has shown, such knowledge is not always used for noble means

It is not uncommon for us to stereotype criminals. As children our storybooks featured menacing ‘baddies’ dressed in striped uniforms. The modern day version is hardly more imaginative- the hoodie clad youth, left school at 14, with head bent beneath the weight of several asbos. It may be quite easy to identify which of these falsehoods and media-exagerrated labels we can ignore, but the ‘undereducated’ accusation appears over and over again.

There is a general, and statistically founded, belief that less educated people are more likely to commit a crime. The issue is far more complex than most acknowledge; indeed, up here, on our university high horse, we will readily explain at length the correlation between our improved future prospects and our lack of enthusiasm for indulging in crime: the more involved we are in the institutions and values of society, the less likely we are to break its laws.

But has it slipped our notice that Stephen Griffiths, otherwise known as the “crossbow cannibal”, was a private schoolboy and a PhD student? In terms of education Griffiths was the cream of the crop. He had walked the educational high road. However, it has now become apparent that the education that we so often associate with guaranteed success was in fact the contributing factor in drawing him into crime.

The thesis of Griffiths’ PhD is “Homicide in an Industrial City- Violence in Bradford 1847-1899”. And it is now known that his house is covered in homicide books, journals and documents. There is nothing too suspect about this information; we can all relate to the state of our bedrooms during essay writing. Just because you own a collection of books on Victorian prostitution does not mean you are an aspiring prostitute. But if you align Griffiths’ education with the fact he has confessed to murdering three prostitutes, one he killed with a crossbow, attempted to eat raw and then pulled into 81 pieces with his hands, his education takes on a whole different meaning.

On Look North the News presenter demanded, “why did Bradford University allow this man to study Criminology?”. Indeed, it was already known that he was mentally unstable and it cannot be denied that his education opened up the way for him to indulge in his criminal tendencies without causing any concern. The Bradford University library provided him with all the knowledge and inspiration he needed to embark on a murdering spree.

However we cannot blame the University for Griffiths’ behaviour. If we did, the only solution would be to refuse education to all those who are slightly mentally unstable- a completely unviable idea. It would be naive to disregard Griffiths’ education in relation to his behaviour, but it also cannot be the only cause. At the end of the day Griffiths would probably have committed these crimes, with or without his PhD. Education is a powerful tool and can be a dangerous weapon, but ignorance is even more dangerous. It is not intellectual education that draws people in to criminality, but an ignorance and lack of understanding towards the society they live in.

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