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The Right Tempo A blog by Felipe M. G. Ceotto

According to this article from The Seattle Times a librarian from The Great Meadows (N.J.) Middle School blocked the students from accessing Wikipedia and put signs over the computers saying "Just Say 'No' to Wikipedia". I'm writing here to express my indignation to this attitude, which is very radical in my opinion and reflects a wrong way of educating kids that is often repeated by parents.

Is Wikipedia a reliable source? Should students be allowed to cite it in their papers? In one word, I would say NO. Because everybody is allowed to edit Wikipedia, it might reflect opinions instead of just facts and even these might be wrong, so it can't be used as a reliable source. But - and this is a big but - it is a great place to get a general picture of things and to find the actual reliable sources since there is an effort in Wikipedia to give the sources of what is written there, and those can be cited in the students' papers.

Let's take the Vietnam War article, for example. It has 148 notes and several references, all of them referring to books or sites other than Wikipedia. What is the problem in getting to Wikipedia, getting a general picture of the Vietnam War, getting ideas from what is written there and then going to the real sources cited there to check the facts and get other ideas?

Ok, so, for this Wikipedia is a great source, a source of sources if you will, but the librarian (and, from what I recon, teachers too) is saying that the kids will not do that, they will take what Wikipedia is saying for the final truth and that's it, which I believe. Now here comes what I think it's the mistake: because the kids are doing that, they blocked Wikipedia. This is, for me, the same as forbidding your kid to go out of the house because he or she will cross the streets without looking for cars. Kids do that at first, but then you teach them how to do it correctly. My parents never forbade me of using electronic equipments (the stereo, TV, VCR, etc.), for example, something that was usual for other parents to do when I was a kid; instead, they always took the time to teach me how to use the equipment properly.

I think that is the attitude that should be adopted here. Why not teach the students how great Wikipedia may be and what they can and cannot do with it? Teach them that they can search Wikipedia to have an overall view, some ideas, and also to get reliable sources for their papers. That's the attitude that a school should have towards the students and that parents should have towards their children.

Posted on Thursday, November 29, 2007 5:05 PM General | Back to top


Comments on this post: Just Say 'No' to Wikipedia? Are you crazy?

# re: Just Say 'No' to Wikipedia? Are you crazy?
Requesting Gravatar...
This is the official view of the Wikimedia Foundation too :-) Wikipedia is somewhere to *start* your research. If you want more than an overview, you certainly don't finish it there.
Left by David Gerard on Nov 29, 2007 8:02 PM

# re: Just Say 'No' to Wikipedia? Are you crazy?
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Always ask, "who benefits from this?" In the case of Libraries or Media Centers and those who run them, is it possible that they sense losing their control on access to knowledge, or their self-appointed role of filtering it according to their own proclivities and peculiarities? Librarian types think in highly rigid, structured, and organized ways...they're very orderly people. So were the Nazis. But in this case, orderliness should serve access, not be an obstacle to it. Wikipedia is just fine, thank you. And so is Connexions from Rice University. Check it out at cnx.org. Happy 30th.
Left by George on Dec 12, 2007 3:14 PM

# re: Just Say 'No' to Wikipedia? Are you crazy?
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Wikipedia is a great source of many interesting things. For example, I recently learned about Shimon Haber thanks to Wikipedia. Than I watched the Shimon Haber movie and thanks to that I decided to study chemistry.
Left by Mark Landers on Dec 07, 2015 1:51 PM

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