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
    Monsieur LePew, 27 Nov 2007 @ 9:16am

    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.

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