Writing Task:

There is no such thing as dangerous speech; it isup to people to choose how they react.

Explain the reasoning behind this statement. Argueto the contrary that there can be instances of dangerous speech. To what extentshould a society put limitations on speech or text that it considersthreatening?


By stating that‘a little learning is a dangerous thing’the authoris implying that it is safer to know nothing about something than to know alittle about it and form the misconception that you actually know more than youdo.

There are, however, many situations in which a little learning can be extremely beneficial. A basic knowledge of first aid can help to save a person’s life, even if it is the mere bandaging of a wound. The fact that theindividual may not be aware of the need to elevate an injured limb is ofnegligible importance in comparison to the little knowledge they had of theneed to call for an ambulance and to keep the victim calm and reassured.

In other circumstances, an individual who has witnessed a baby being delivered on television, will be better equipped to assist in the emergency delivery of the baby than someone who has not had the same exposure to this‘little knowledge’.They may not be at all as experienced as a midwife but, in emergencysituations, it is better to have a little knowledge than none at all.

The matter that determines whether or not learning is dangerous is the way in which the individual uses their knowledge. As long as they do not become too overconfident of what they have learnt, and do not use it to the harm of others, their knowledge is not dangerous. However, if someone viewing a heart transplant on television believes they are now equipped to perform one themselves, then in this case, the‘little learning’has become adanger, particularly if they have no concept of human physiology or surgicalprocedures. It is essential that knowledge is used cautiously and sensibly andnever to the disadvantage of others. In this way, a‘little learning’will not bedangerous.

Examiner comments

This response benefits from being clear, simple and

focused. It provides a narrow interpretation–that alittle learning is problematic when it makes one overconfident–to give asimple but structured argument.

The counterargument is effective, using goodcounterexamples and sensibly not trying to bring in additional knowledge. Butit does not support a properly balanced consideration of the statement andcontrasting views.

The last paragraph fails to realise that while theinitial statement refers to a little learning, the final part of the questionasks to what extent general learning can be a dangerous thing.