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The Dumbest Debate…

I’ve been involved in some dumb debates, and have found myself walking away from them thinking why the fuck did I just do that. Why not just nod and walk away? But perhaps none of these debates have been dumber than the one surrounding Wikipedia.

Unfortunately, it was teh type of debate that was often had in urban education discussions, and I still don’t know how to process. Wikipedia was founded in 2001, but began its reign as the site for information around 2005/6. Every year after that, especially with the rise in prominence of smart phones and instant interent access, its popularity only grew. The links made it very easy to use, and it pops up as the major source of information on almst every subject.

I used it all the time. So do most of my friends and colleagues. It is, undeniably, an amazing feat. Any subject in the entire world can be found in one place. A reader can go from novice to semi-knowledgable in the course of an afternoon. And if a subject isn’t there? You can add it. Readers can add it. What if something is wrong? You can edit it.

In the late aughts, a lot of teachers had a similar experience: when assigning research papers, students would use and quote Wikipedia. Which sparked a major problem. One especially bad teacher I worked with instructed students not to use it at all. Others said students could not use it as a source. ‘Anyone can add to it,’ they said. ‘But I can use this and find out about anything,’ the students responded. ‘Well, this is not reputable,’ the teachers countered.

Unable to use Wikipedia as a source, many students turned in nothing.

You guys are missing the point! I wanted to scream. These kids used to do zero research, and now they’ll read about a totally new topic for over an hour. And it was true. SEveral times, students woudl tell you about something interesting they’d found on Wikipedia while looking up something they’d heard in class. In the way it often works, they were curious, clicked the link, and went down the rabbit hole.

Now, often these were kids that didn’t do homework, didn’t read books, and weren’t encouraged to pursue education. Passing a class was just as good as getting an A, and we were often the first time a student had heard about a subject. So here was this new, amazing website that taught and had information about every subject, and we, the educators, fought about how it could be used in an American LIterature class taught at the Chicago Public Schools.

Educators literally stopped students from learning more about subject, because their own wack ass opinion, the student wasn’t using a ‘credible’ source.

Could we miss the point more?

Here, students were finally reading and researching, if they didn’t know something they were going to a source that supplied information, and the teachers stopped this. Educators encouraged and supported ignorance.

Which always made me think of God and Science.