[Textbook-l] Problem with NPOV

Jimmy Wales jwales at wikia.com
Tue Oct 24 02:32:05 UTC 2006

Brianna Laugher wrote:
> On 11/09/06, Andrew Whitworth <wknight8111 at hotmail.com> wrote:
>> Jimbo: If you want us to use a specific defintion of "textbook" and
>> "accredited institution", then you are going to have to mandate such
>> definitions to us. At the moment we are picking our way through such
>> matters, with varying degrees of success.
> It is my observation that TPTB is very reluctant to offer such
> definitions or mandates, even when requested. "Picking our way through
> such matters with varying degrees of success" -- it seems to be the
> wiki way. Try just making your own definitions (as a project), and I
> guess you'll find out if you've been too WP:BOLD if you notice some
> personal interventions after that. :)
> It doesn't seem ideal, but I guess I can understand why they're
> reluctant to define such things. Then the criticism of such things
> also falls to them. The people who are actually running the project
> should take control of its direction at some stage... although
> mandates would make life so easy.

Brianna has hit the nail on the head.  I believe firmly that the 
communities are smarter than I am, that I should not be involved to the 
level of detail that Andrew is asking for, except in an advisory 
capacity more or less like everyone else.

I think that the charter of *what we are looking for* is pretty clear. 
Andrew hit the nail on the head when he talked about bogus "accredited" 
institutions teaching nonsense that we don't want, and about perfectly 
good community centers teaching perfectly sensible stuff without 
worrying about being accredited.

That doesn't mean that the "accredited institution" test is useless in 
every respect, of course, and I am guessing that he would agree.  But it 
does mean that we have to dig into more details.

Some of the main points that I think are important...

-- Wikibooks is something we can get very passionate about, but that 
passionate vision is marred if we allow it to become a dumping ground 
for stuff people don't want in Wikipedia, or a POV haven for nonsense, etc.

-- Wikibooks has a serious possibility to get independent funding, so 
long as it remains focussed on its serious mission of textbooks.  Such 
funding can be used to customize and improve the software for wikibooks, 
as well as to *purchase and liberate* textbook works that already exist.

Suffice to say: we can get funding for Wikibooks to radically change the 
education world if potential funders come to the project and see a 
serious project doing good work.  We can not get funding for Wikibooks 
if potential funders come to the project and look at it and see a bunch 
of nonsense that we did not have the pride to disallow (random crap that 
got pushed out of Wikipedia, for example).

Funders are eager to find solutions to important questions facing 
education.  They are not eager to fund videogame manuals and pokeman 
trivia reference books.

-- Wikibooks needs to focus on actual courses because we passionately 
care that our work *actually be used in education*.  In order to get 
textbooks adopted by real schools, they must meet curriculum standards. 
  It is as simple as that.


I could go on, but I think you begin to see... there are some basic 
standards and concepts, but really we need to work together carefully as 
a community to build detailed policies to implement these and other 
natural and sensible guidelines.

A fair amount of that work is already done, of course, and it will be a 
long and ongoing process.


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