Is Wikipedia To Blame For Students' Laziness?
from the so-who's-at-fault-here? dept
Let’s get a few things right out in the open: anyone can edit a Wikipedia entry, it’s never going to be 100% accurate, during breaking news there may be many factual errors posted before the entry is accurate, and considering all this it shouldn’t be relied upon as the sole source when doing research. We had to clear that up because apparently some people didn’t realize this. Writing for News.com, intern Soumya Srinagesh tells a cautionary tale of writing a “massive second-semester AP English research final project” in 45 minutes using Wikipedia as her only source. One can assume that any serious essay written in such a short time would be pretty poor, particularly if it only used one source. But that’s not the point she tries to make. Instead she turns it around, blaming Wikipedia’s decentralized editing system and the lack of filters it has in place. Ominously (for the future of America), she says her fellow students generally accept Wikipedia’s word as gospel. But again, instead of calling out these students for being lazy (and arguably for being cheaters), it’s Wikipedia’s fault.
Srinagesh and other critics of Wikipedia entirely miss the point about the site. They set up straw men by questioning whether it’s 100% accurate, or whether it’s always trustworthy. But even if we accept the premise that, say, the Encyclopedia Brittanica is more accurate (albeit less extensive), it would still be wholly unworthy as the sole source for serious research or a term paper. Most papers that students write require some sort of bibliography, and professors always emphasize using multiple sources. That’s because the point is to get practice doing real research, not just rewording what was read elsewhere. If a student wants to take a shortcut and skip the point of the assignment, that doesn’t seem like Wikipedia’s fault.