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?

Filed Under: schools, wikipedia


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  1. identicon
    Xslayer.ALE, 27 Nov 2007 @ 7:24am

    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.

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