Middlebury College vs. Wikipedia

Middlebury College is proud to have taken a stand against Wikipedia this year:

Members of the Vermont institution’s history department voted unanimously in January to adopt the statement, which bans students from citing the open-source encyclopedia in essays and examinations.

Without entirely dismissing Wikipedia — “whereas Wikipedia is extraordinarily convenient and, for some general purposes, extremely useful…” — the decision paints it with a broad brush — “as educators, we are in the business of reducing the dissemination of misinformation.” (Though a site search reveals it’s frequently cited there.)

Chandler Koglmeier’s op-ed response in the student newspaper, however, was rather pointed:

[Professor Waters’ states that] “the articles can improve over time, but there’s always an [emphasis on] change rather than something finalized.” I wasn’t aware that knowledge was a static thing. […] I think you should talk to our nation’s medical schools. They seem to have advanced beyond the world of Hippocrates and the Greek doctors in the past few years and might be teaching something that is dangerous.

Intrigue, indeed. My question is how will Middlebury students be taught to evaluate their information sources after they leave college? Who will tell them what to trust then?

ban, information literacy, middlebury, middlebury college, wikipedia

25 thoughts on “Middlebury College vs. Wikipedia

  1. It amazes me that for all our education we still insist upon attacking the symptoms of a problem rather than addressing the cause. The real issue here is the need to cultivate a digital literacy in not only our learners, but our faculty as well. Information changes far too rapidly for any print text to ever hope to keep up. For many resources, as soon as they finally make it to print, they are already obsolete.

    Rather than rehash my post, I’ll just let folks take a peek here: http://www.whitemountaintech.net/wordpress/2007/01/29/attacking-the-symptoms/

    Thanks for your post Casey, it helps breed awareness!

    John

    [tags]wikipedia, digital-literacy, information-literacy[/tags]

  2. Hear hear, my good man! I believe T.S. Eliot’s phrase ‘hypocrite lecteur’ sums up Middlebury’s standpoint quite well, although ‘hypocrite lecturer’ might be a bit more appropriate, given the situation.

    Personally, I tell my students to evaluate information on Wikipedia like they would any other source: critically. After all, any quack can write a book

    [tags]education, hypocrisy, middlebury, critical thinking[/tags]

  3. Pingback: » Wikipedia The Wonder

  4. There are plenty of good reasons to not allow Wikipedia as a source. As a student, I’ve felt the urge to cite it on numerous occasions, but I understand why it’s not a good idea. It’s too easy for people with an agenda, or for people who think it’s funny/entertaining, to go in and edit pages. While it is rare, I have seen it happen. What Wikipedia does do though is allow a student to get a broad image of what they’re researching, and then from there research pertinent information.

    The easiest thing to do is just go to the bottom of the page and use the links to information that the authors of the Wikipedia page cited themselves (as long as those sources have any sort of authority on the subject of course).

  5. @Trevor Owen:

    All sources are subject to the same criticism. Understanding that is just one aspect of information literacy that we need to be teaching. Pick any article, anywhere and ask yourself “who wrote this and what are his/her biases?”

    Wikipedia makes answering that question a little easier by allowing a reader to see other contributions an author has made, and giving a clear space for people to debate an issue.

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