Having A School Block Wikipedia Does Not Further The Cause Of Education

from the head-in-the-sand dept

We’ve heard time and time again that schools refuse to allow Wikipedia citations in papers. That’s somewhat understandable. However, what’s ridiculous is to go beyond that to the point that some teachers and even entire schools are now blocking Wikipedia entirely from school computers. It’s hard to see how this furthers the cause of education. If anything, it does the exact opposite. If the concern is that Wikipedia may not be trustworthy, why not teach students how Wikipedia works, how to improve it and how to think critically before believing any particular source? What’s amazing is that people complain about inaccurate info in Wikipedia as a reason it shouldn’t be trusted — but those same people don’t seem to try to ban the use of the Encyclopedia Britannica when significant errors are found in it. And, when errors are found in Britannica (which some studies have shown occur just as frequently as in Wikipedia), they remain there. When errors are found in Wikipedia, they quickly get corrected. Again, though, it comes down to learning not to trust any single source as being authoritative — and teaching kids to be skeptical of any source. Completely banning a source does students a complete disservice. Once they leave the school and encounter Wikipedia on their own, wouldn’t it be better if they’d spent some time with a teacher assisting them to understand the pros and cons of Wikipedia so they know how to use it properly on their own?

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Comments on “Having A School Block Wikipedia Does Not Further The Cause Of Education”

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Danny says:

Fear of technology?

Perhaps the reason why school systems are trying to ban Wikipedia over the possibility of errors while forgiving Britannica’s errors is because those the people in charge of those school systems are middle aged and grew up on things like Britannica. Add that to the fact that the willingness to try and trust technology decreases with age and you have people that don’t want to allow the use of Wikipedia and are in a position to do something about it.

boost says:

Re: Meh


You see, the problem with schools in this country (well really, teachers and administrators), both secondary and collegiate level, is that may of them don’t understand how evidence works, right down to the very most basic levels of data retrieval and analysis. So, they end up up telling you that you can’t use certain evidence and that you should use other sources of evidence. Most often it’s only because of their own personal beliefs about that evidence and not any real factual information. This is why we have science teachers and history teachers teaching theorems and historical events as facts when instead they should be teaching students about critical thinking and developing theories and opinions for themselves.

Those were really long sentences.

that guy says:

i hate people who cite wikipedia

I can kind of understand where teachers are coming from. Even though the students may not cite wikipedia, they will still use information from that source. I don’t think wikipedia, or any encyclopedia for that matter, should be considered anything but “fun general information”. If you want reliable information, read peer-reviewed established scholarly journals. That’s what teachers should be emphasizing: how to do real research, and not summarize encyclopedias (of any kind). Of course, even they may not know how to do that.

boost says:

Re: Re: Re: i hate people who cite wikipedia

ehh, that guy, I’m going to disagree with you there. I think this is a case of someone afraid of change. It won’t be long before these ‘scholarly journals’ are changed and morphed into a wiki system of reviewing. The system is superior. And there is nothing to say that these qualified individuals reviwing the scholarly sources are correct in there assumptions. The fact is scholarly journals have many errors too. Hell, anyone remember how long it took Einstein’s theories to gain acceptance in the scientific community. And even those theories were quickly proven incomplete.

Matt says:

School Systems

I work at a school system in the technology department. The shame of it is, is that kids don’t care weather what they see is right or wrong. I once told a kid on wikipedia at school that he should check the information elsewhere, and he said no that he didn’t have time. The students want to get things done FAST and don’t care where their info comes from. There is only a handful of students who take their work seriously enough to care about where their information comes from. I do agree, however that it should not be banned. and as long as i work in this technology deparement i will do my best to keep it off of that ban list, because it can be a valuable resource, and as said, can be a teaching technique for teachers to show how they need to check their sources with other information.

Tim says:

Re: School Systems

and thats the way it should be. Listen you cannot change a person by force, most kids today will try to get the answer fast because…well thats what we are teaching them. Everything is getting faster and sure enough companies do the same thing. They cheat so why shouldnt the students? You could call this “natural selection” as you referenced to the “handful of students”. These students will in fact survive school and pass while the others will not. Its simple, the weak die and the strong live. It benefits everyone if we keep people who are lazy out of governmental or powerful positions and I can guarantee those “handful of students” will probably carry that trait of actually working for something and being honest about it to their work area which again benefits the company and everyone else. Schools should not have the right to ban as they see fit. I think votes should be held by parents and not just let the adult administrators speak but allow the student body to voice our opinion as well because if you think about we are going to take over once you die so I would want to get on our good graces! Its not fair that schools think that just because we are minors that means they can stomp on us. NO THE CONSTITUTION CLEARLY states that ANY US citizen has the right to freedom of speech it DOES NOT restrict to an age limit. And do not even try to bull shart someone and say oh but they limit voting age and if you cant vote then you do not have free speech blah blah blah. No I do have free speech its just that I’m taught into believing that until I’m 18 or whenever I attain those rights. Children and teens should unite and finally conquer “the man” aka school administrators who think they know it all which they do not. In my opinion human knowledge is free and should be accessible to everyone because at the end of the day we all benefit from knowledge.

WarOtter (profile) says:

Perhaps it may help...

Think about it this way. Wikipedia is about quantity of information, not quality. While most everything is accurate in it, there is no guarantee that the entries are properly researched and that they are 100% accurate.

While I think that banning it is not the smartest move, it will end up forcing some students to dig deeper to do their research.

Sean says:

Next you'll be in favor of...

…underage drinking. The same basic argument can be made regarding dugs and alcohol. And how dare you promote the idea that school children should be allowed to experiment with such dangerous things, like depressants and online encyclopedias.

I think this quote sums it up best.

Marlin: I promised I’d never let anything happen to him.
Dory: Hmmm. That’s funny thing to promise.
Marlin: What?
Dory: Well you can’t never let anything happen to him. Then nothing would ever happen to him. Not much fun for little Harpo.

Annon. says:

Re: Next you'll be in favor of...

funny. although you may not like it, technology will out live us all and so will ideas and emerging speeches that will change the world. I agree with some that wikipedia may not be 100% correct but even scientific theories and laws are broken each day with each new discovery disproving this and that. what we must understand is that the world is constantly changing and evolving into something new everyday. Either accept this or fight it and lose!

Casper says:


The problem is simple, students are doing work that does not require them to actually learn anything. If a student is doing their assignments and have no worries about the accuracy of the information, perhaps that assignment is a waste of time in the first place.

Our education system is a joke. We hand out busy work and standard tests as if it somehow shows us anything. What we need is a system that actually trains people for their fields of expertise and we need to accept the fact not every cares about every subject. Heck, how can we criticize the students for using unreliable sources when most of the educators we have are 20+ years behind in their own education.

If people don’t want students using wikipedia, then make other sources easier to locate and search. It should not be difficult to locate and cite information as we are nearly in 2008…

Xslayer.ALE says:

Wikipedia is to knowledge what Gossip is to news. Having 1 to hundreds of people citing content in wikipedia as fact doesnt make it so. It is all heresay and the very fact that all or part of what is in any subject in wikipedia are from un-credited sources makes it nothing more than a rumor mill for facts. The fact is that Encyclopedias are somewhat the same in that encyclopedias gather facts as established at the time of publishing (verified by the publisher), facts that may change or be proven erroneous after the time of publishing. The difference is that reputable people verify content in encyclopedias. People who have a vested interest in making sure content in encyclopedias are as accurate as they can possibly get, since credibility is proportional to sales thus continued business. In Wikipedia, there are no such limitations as to who modifies content so any one genius can be edited by dozens of fools therefore the opinion of the many outweigh the opinion of the few or the one, whether or not the opinion of the minority is actually the right one.
To teach “children” how to edit wikipedia is a lesson in futility. Take this forum we are posting on now. Newbies will spend hours trying to make their point across and will post endless entries to that effect. More valued posts will be lost in a flood of arguements. In wikipedia, those valued posts are edited out in good probability.

So in conclusion, take the content in wikipedia like you would the surveys in “Family Feud”. Top 100 people surveyed with a question. The most popular answer in a survey may not be the right answer.

Deb (profile) says:

Re: Re:

I don’t use Wikipedia for the info it has. I use it for the sources it cites.

For many topics, it provides an excellent base of where to start looking for further info. I recently read an article on operant conditioning and there were over 20 sources cited.

Then I googled the cited sources and researched who the people were and how they contributed to the research in the field. Once I found people with proper credentials (post grad degrees, peer reviewed work, books published and so on)it was easy to find those books and materials.

Wikipedia is very useful tool, but again, it is simply one tool in the arsenal of information. When properly applied to further research it can be fantastic. There are often incredible lists of references.

It’s shame the schools don’t recognize it for what it is and fear it for what it could be. I found more errors in the Encyclopedia Brittanica’s article on OC than I did in Wikipedia’s, yet the Encyclopedia was an allowable source.

That’s just sad.

kweeket says:

Re: Re:

I don’t think you understand how Wikipedia works (or is supposed to work, anyway). Every fact is supposed to come with a footnote linking back to the reliable source where that fact was stated. This is how things are verified – by proxy, saying, “Well, Scientific American published this fact, therefore it is exactly as reputable as the editorial staff at that magazine.”

Wallin - MyCyberSweatshop says:

I love Wikipedia. It’s probably 99 44/100% pure. Just don’t always believe everything I read there. (But what the hell, people have alway used the spoken and written language to lie, decieve, and misinform. Seems to me that the most important part of the process is to think critically about everything you see, hear, or read. There are no sacred or inerrant sources). Censorship of Wikipedia is NOT the answer. One of my favorite quotes about censorship is on WikiQuote: Censorship:

“But the truth is, that when a Library expels a book of mine and leaves an unexpurgated Bible lying around where unprotected youth and age can get hold of it, the deep unconscious irony of it delights me and doesn’t anger me.” ~ Letter to Mrs. F. G. Whitmore (February 7, 1907) by Mark Twain.

Overcast says:

The ‘schools’ don’t care about ‘education’. After dealing with the schools round and round again (my Son has some ‘issues’ and not ADD, etc..)

See, they don’t care if my Son misses a thousand days – nor do they care if he takes ‘compentecy’ tests, they just need the paperwork in order to provide the ‘holy’ state with to justify it all.

They are NUTS on attendance now, I assume the ‘no child left behind’ BS mandates a minimum attendance standard and minimum test scores. Understandable that kids need to go to school, but it was nothing like this when I was younger.

If they miss pretty much any day without a doctor’s *note* it’s unexcused. So if they have a cold for a day or two, if you don’t take them to the doctor, it’s unexcused. Parent’s note won’t work, only a doctor’s note. Won’t we all be SO GLAD to get national health care!!?? Of course, SSI refused to pay a bunch of my son’s bills, but that’s ok – national healthcare’s better, huh? just be careful what you ask for there – you might get it.

That’s BS – I shouldn’t have to run my kid to the doctor because he has a cold. Particularly since there’s no know way to really fight a virus anyway. Just rest and liquids.

As it stands now, he misses every other Monday for doctor’s appointments, but they don’t care – because I have a doctor’s note each time. He was exempted from the ‘mandatory’ testing by his doctor, and they acted happy about it – seriously.

Now, I don’t fault the teachers themselves, I’m sure many do care. But the administration, unions, government entities that deal with education are just looking for numbers that look good. Education isn’t important – agenda for the ‘system’ is.

Max says:

Modern contradiction

“Again, though, it comes down to learning not to trust any single source as being authoritative — and teaching kids to be skeptical of any source.”

– this is the scariest quote from the article. This world is a confusing place for kids to grow up in, they do need a sense of direction from their parents, teachers etc. The worst thing we can do for them is teach that they need to be skeptical of everything. Adults are already failing in providing direction to them, let’s not add to this the ‘teaching’ of not trusting anyone.

Do not ban Wikipidia but do explain that this source might be wrong and then direct them to the RIGHT source, unless of course, you believe there is no right/wrong but that’s a separate discussion.

Boost says:

Re: Modern contradiction

You’re a moron. The worst thing we teach children in this modern world is that there is a such thing as definitive. There is no such thing as definitive anything. There is always another explanation and children should learn, especially in science and history class, that you can’t dig too deeply. We should never tell children about absolutism. You say skeptical, but that is such a loaded word. Children should learn how to be self-informed. I hope you don’t have kids. Furthermore, I hope you’re not a teacher.

Tempest says:

“this is the scariest quote from the article. This world is a confusing place for kids to grow up in, they do need a sense of direction from their parents, teachers etc. The worst thing we can do for them is teach that they need to be skeptical of everything. Adults are already failing in providing direction to them, let’s not add to this the ‘teaching’ of not trusting anyone. “

So you’d rather train an unthinking drone who’s great at spouting out sound-bite information and taking standardized tests than raise a child who has critical thinking skills and a true grasp of the scientific process?

If anything our problem is that we aren’t skeptical enough.

Jonathon says:

People are stupid

The education system is as corrupt as they can be. There is nothing wrong with Wikipedia. Academics just can’t handle it, they are stupid.

Stupid, stupid, stupid.

My children will have choice and understanding not restrictions. Education is about learning and you cannot learn if you hide things. The education system does not care about learning; they care about results on a test.

The education system discounts personal experiances.

Monsieur LePew says:

It's All About Sex

My guess is that the accuracy of the information is not the real issue at stake; it’s all about sex, drugs, and violence. As technology leader in a school system we struggle with the fact that kids can find anything on Wikipedia, including a lot of sexually graphic content and images. Those images aren’t welcome in a K-12 school environment so we have to make a decision. Do we try to block each individually offensive page in Wikipedia (which changes daily) or do we just block the whole site?

Our system opted for another choice. We don’t block Wikipedia at all; we let the teachers know that the site has some graphically sexual content and the teachers should keep an eye on the kids any time they are online (after all, filters don’t block everything).

However, if a district decided to block the site because of the sexual content I think it would be politically easier to argue that you blocked Wikipedia because its reliability was spurious instead of opening up the very divisive issue of how much sex ed should go on in the school system.

Thinking Logicaly (profile) says:

You really need to step back and look at it all.

On one hand, you have the people who think Wikipedia is the greatest in the world, and on the other, you have people who think that Wikipedia is the Devil’s book.

The fact of the matter is is that Wikipedia is there. It is ment to be a collection of information from people. Not some self proclaimed expert.

It would be like gathering 10 million people and asking all of them some questions on one subject. Not all of the information would be right, and some of it would be right.

Children at a young age should be taught to be able to differ right from wrong. If one artical states that a black labrador is 20 feet tall, weighs 500 tons, is purple, and has 5 tails, I should hope that a child could be able to know that that was wrong. How can they learn the difference if they are only ever shown one thing.

However, they should also be taught that Wiki cannot be used as a substitute as 3+ sources.

I believe that, when used at the right time for the right purposes, Wikipedia can be a good source.

missouri says:

I’m at school as I write this. I go to a public high school, which has recently blocked:

–every google function except a basic search (even images, video, etc.)

and much more. I couldn’t do FBLA’s (future buisness leaders of america) district website creation competition because my school blocked a few key resources I needed and I HAD to work on my project at school.

I also couldn’t do a good presentation because all image searches are blocked. It’s also incredible annoying to not be able to use wikipedia. Even if I don’t cite wikipedia, I can at least get a general idea for what’s saying.

Anonymous Coward says:

Attendance equals knowledge?

I do graphic design at another school about 30 minutes away from where I normally attend school. The Career and Technology Center fills up 3 hours or class periods every day. I then have 4 more hours/class periods of classes left when I get back to school. The CTC gets out a few times when my normal school does not. Once it gets a week off while my normal school is still in session. Instead of my day starting when my last 4 class periods start, I have to come to school early in the morning and sit in the library (who’s computers also have everything the person above me listed blocked + more) for my 3 hours because of the attendance thing.

Supposedly the rule is I have to be in an ‘educational’ enviroment. In reality, I’d learn more at home toying around on photo.net or wikipedia.com than I would sitting at a table, sleeping for 3 hours in a library.

Attendance =/= Knowledge

Trevlac says:

Wikipedia citations

I run a debate forum which allows the use of Wikipedia for research but when it comes to actual citations, people must use the wiki citations. Since I know how Wikipedia works, I don’t fear that people are getting falsified information and since it does actually list footnote citations, I just require them to use that. It’s simple enough and it works.

Brian Carnell (user link) says:


@6 wrote:

“If you want reliable information, read peer-reviewed established scholarly journals. That’s what teachers should be emphasizing: how to do real research, and not summarize encyclopedias (of any kind). Of course, even they may not know how to do that.”

So if I want to teach my daughter about influenza, rather than point her to the Britannica entry about the disease or Wikipedia’s informative article on it, I should tell her to go track down some peer reviewed articles in Nature or The Journal of Infectious Diseases and Clinical Infectious?

Clearly written by someone who him or herself never actually reads peer reviewed journals. This is horrible advice.

that guy says:

Re: Riiight

Way to read only part of my post. You completely missed the part where I stated “fun general information”.

If your daughter wants to know about influenza, go ahead and use wikipedia. If your child is in high school and asked to do a research paper on it, do not use wikipedia. Go look at some studies on it, which are located in journals.

I read journal articles almost every day for my PhD research. Wikipedia is completely useless for any kind of real research. If want to write a two-page summary and call it research, fine. Then we differ on our definition of research.

Clearly, written by someone who really doesn’t read journals or posts thorougly.

Peter says:

Wikipedia shouldn’t be blocked altogether, but the site contains content and images that would violate the code of conduct for any high school.

Since Wikipedia isn’t censored (which is a good thing), there are particularly graphic entries for words like “penis.” (You won’t be able to resist searching for it now, just don’t do it on a public computer.)

joe says:

You can't save it...

You cannot save Wikipedia. Most articles are a battle ground between would be tin-pot dictators. The entire idea of Wikipedia being democratic is a farce. Wikipedia is an Oligachy where a handful of editors with admin powers control the site. The way in which they got these powers? An arbitrary yes/no vote by other admins. When you finally come across an article in which you try to improve and run into a wannabe ruler over said article, you will know what I mean.

Wikipedia has no place in our education system, and our schools should not be wasting time on teaching our kids how to “properly edit” the site. Schools are a place for education, if you’re going to block MySpace, block Wikipedia as well. I’ve seen far more vicious behavior on Wikipedia than MySpace anyway.

YodaSan2 (user link) says:

You Are Completely Right!!!

I’m a 9th grade student at Decatur Central High School in indianapolis, and they are trying to block Wikipedia here too. They just blocked Yahoo Answers!. I use that for homework and school questions. There are some really smart people there. That stuff is just plain BS if you ask me. Talking about that, I have a channel on youtube. Again the URL is http://www.youtube.com/yodasan2. Anyways, I have a series response to the Angry Video Game Nerd(AVGN). His name is James Rolfe, and he made a Do You Know Whats ********(BS?). I’m making a series of that on my own. And do you know what my next video of it is gonna be. Do you Know What’s BS, SCHOOLS BLOCKING YAHOO AND WIKIPEDIA, THATS WHAT’S BS. Thank You!!!

pissed of Highschool student (user link) says:

Well im in Reuther High in Kenosha Wi, and today ive come to find out almost eavrysite i go on is now bloked, and im mostly pissed about wiki bc i use the wiki links to track back the direct source of information.Aaaand now wwe have nothin like litterally 90% of what i search on yahoo is blocked and i dont get it because im in an accelerated alternative.And wll our work is computer based and i brought it to the teachers attention and they just kinda eh and shrugged >.

network admin says:


On the network I’m responsible for we don’t block Wikipedia. Instead our proxy rewrites Wikipedia pages such that all the cruft is removed and the header is replaced with one that makes it very clear that Wikipedia content should never be trusted and never used as a citation. A Wikipedia citation gets an instant ‘F’ and the rewritten header provides a strong visual reminder of this with a giant handwritten red ‘F’.

“When errors are found in Wikipedia, they quickly get corrected.” Why does this myth keep being perpetuated? Sure, it sometimes happens, but sometimes it doesn’t. Not every subject is closely monitored by experts all of the time. Yes, I do know of longstanding errors on Wikipedia pages. No, I don’t correct them. I don’t have a Wikipedia account and I don’t want one. I don’t actually care that Wikipedia is inaccurate as long as our students know it’s unreliable.

Bnefriends says:

Wikipedia is blocked in Charlotte County Public Schools because students were abusing it, like when some cheerleader at a particular high school was caught vandalizing, and the people who would look up things like “suicide methods.” As a Wikipedian myself, I will tell you that it’s not about how often a particular article is monitored, but rather whether or not the people monitoring the Recent Changes catches the inaccuracies as they’re being added.

Jon says:

My school has blocked wikipedia, which I find quite ridiculous. Rather than have a list of blocked sites, my school instead has a very small list of permitted sites which offer little or no information. At one point, even google was blocked. What’s more, wikipediais inaccesible during lunch break, meaning we can’t even use it for purposes that are non school related. I feel sorry for the kids without computers at home.

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