Banning Wikipedia

The dubious nature of Wikipedia information has come to the attention of the authorities:

When half a dozen students in Neil Waters’s Japanese history class at Middlebury College asserted on exams that the Jesuits supported the Shimabara Rebellion in 17th-century Japan, he knew something was wrong. The Jesuits were in “no position to aid a revolution,” he said; the few of them in Japan were in hiding.

He figured out the problem soon enough. The obscure, though incorrect, information was from Wikipedia, the collaborative online encyclopedia, and the students had picked it up cramming for his exam.

Dr. Waters and other professors in the history department had begun noticing about a year ago that students were citing Wikipedia as a source in their papers. When confronted, many would say that their high school teachers had allowed the practice.

But the errors on the Japanese history test last semester were the last straw. At Dr. Waters’s urging, the Middlebury history department notified its students this month that Wikipedia could not be cited in papers or exams, and that students could not “point to Wikipedia or any similar source that may appear in the future to escape the consequences of errors.”

Kudos to Middlebury College.

4 thoughts on “Banning Wikipedia”

  1. Wikipedia is highly useful for its references; in mathmatics, as I noted in my Kos diary, it’s quite useful, though of course I’d never rely on it alone in my work.

    BTW, Wikipedia is blocked in China, most likely because they don’t like the position on articles like Falun Gong (which appears to have been created by their cult members).

  2. On obscure technical subjects, Wikipedia is sometimes not too bad. On social, political, and historical ones it’s an abomination. I wonder if that isn’t the plan.

  3. Back when dinosaurs roamed the earth and I was still a full-time student, my teachers would never allow an assertion based on only one reference. Depending on the relevance of the assertion to the topic at hand, I needed three or more independent references to back it up.

    Wikipedia articles sometimes have multiple credible citations to back up key assertions. I think this is a good way to judge the quality of an article. Still, I would not depend entirely on Wikipedia for anything important. That’s why I usually chase down page after page of results from a search engine before thinking that I have definitive information.

  4. Wikipedia is a great place to start researching because it collects interesting links. But the Wikipedia process is so ridiculous that you can’t even trust their collection of links to be representative. Without OCD, Wikipedia would die, and people with OCD have a very narrow view of the world.

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