Silences in Teaching

Les voix du silence dans l’académie

Thomas Fleming

Forensic identification officers, despite the portrayal of their professional lives on television programs such as CSI, often look for something that is not evident. Remarkably, it is often the very absence of a feature that leads to the solution of a violent crime. For professors teaching in the field of criminology, it can also be “the thing that is not said” that proves to have the greatest impact on students’ experience of learning.

How can the creative use of “the thing that is not said” help them acquire a critical, compassionately informed understanding of murder in lecture classes? First, it requires getting students to shut off their computers, disengage from mechanical note taking, and engage in an embodied state of deeper reflection.

To bring the reality of true crime to students, it is crucial to expose them to scene-of-death photographs, recovery of human remains materials, forensic investigation methodologies, and the horrendous day-today reality – versus the fantasy – of serial murderers. Informed interpretation of the materials by the instructor, in concert with students, is essential, but the use of silence to support contemplation of difficult materials is also of considerable assistance. In a society full of noise pollution from all directions – and when ceaseless interpretation by “quasi-experts” is a media staple – it is a unique and moving experience for students to reflect on these murderous and tragic realities in silence.