[Wikipedia-l] Article - Librarian: Don't use Wikipedia as source

Ray Saintonge saintonge at telus.net
Thu Aug 26 22:55:02 UTC 2004

>Librarian: Don't use Wikipedia as source
>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 illustrate the problem.
>>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:
>"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 at 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 thinking apparatus. 

>The best thing about the Web is also the worst thing: Information is
>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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