I'm reminded of Ronald Reagan, "Trust, but verify."
[mailto:wikipedia-l-bounces@Wikimedia.org] On Behalf Of Ray Saintonge
Sent: Thursday, August 26, 2004 6:55 PM
To: Andrew Lih; wikipedia-l(a)Wikimedia.org
Subject: Re: [Wikipedia-l] Article - Librarian: Don't use Wikipedia as
Librarian: Don't use Wikipedia as source AL
Not so, wrote a school librarian who read that article. Susan
Stagnitta, of the Liverpool High School library, explained that
Wikipedia is not what many casual Web surfers think it is.
It's not the online version of an established, well-researched
traditional encyclopedia. Instead, Wikipedia is a do-it-yourself
encyclopedia, without any credentials.
"As a high school librarian, part of my job is to help my students
develop critical thinking skills," Stagnitta wrote. "One of these
skills is to evaluate the authority of any information source. The
Wikipedia is not an authoritative source. It even states this in their
disclaimer on their Web site."
Perhaps she should be directed to [[Appeal to authority]]
""Critical thinking" is a term we hear frequently these days as a form of
training which will herald a new day in mass schooling. It certainly will,
if it ever happens. No common school that actually dared teach the use of
dialectic, heuristic, and other tools of free minds could last a year
without being torn to pieces." - John Taylor Gatto (1991)
Wikipedia, she explains, takes the idea of open source
one step too far
for most of us.
"Anyone can change the content of an article in the Wikipedia, and
there is no editorial review of the content. I use this Web site as a
learning experience for my students. Many of them have used it in the
past for research and were very surprised when we investigated the
authority of the site."
A better exercise mighr be to compare the content of these pages with what
is said in "authoritative" sources about the same subject. If the student
finds the Wikipedia article to be in error, he is welcome to change it.
Stagnitta gives two quotes from the Wikipedia site that
From the home page:
"Wikipedia is an encyclopedia written collaboratively by its readers.
The site is a Wiki, meaning that anyone, including you, can also edit
any article right now by clicking on the edit this page link that
appears at the top of every Wikipedia article."
From the disclaimer page:
"WIKIPEDIA MAKES NO GUARANTEE OF VALIDITY.
"Therefore, please be advised that nothing found here has necessarily
been reviewed by professionals who are knowledgeable in the particular
areas of expertise necessary to provide you with complete, accurate or
reliable information about any subject in Wikipedia."
I was amazed at how little I knew about Wikipedia. If you know of other
supposedly authoritative Web sites that are untrustworthy, send a note
to technology(a)syracuse.com and let me know about them.
What's most amazing is the blindness applied when one believes that the
source is authoritative. Authority becomes an excuse for shutting off the
The best thing about the Web is also the worst thing:
all over the place. You need to be careful about trusting what you
Children are trained to react positively when a parent or teacher says,
"Trust me." When that lesson carries on into subsequent life the
consequences can be disastrous. The patina of authority based on the
credentials of an encyclopedia's authors can be deceptive. When we accept
that the peer review process has diminished the level of error in such a
publication, we still need to protect ourselves from falling into a false
sense of security. The student who relies on any single source for his
information unduly restricts his ability for critical evaluation.
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