Higher ed and Wikipedia go great together

Not my favorite show, but…

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ETA: Lest I give the impression I’m not, I’m a huge fan of Wikipedia and the Foundations other projects. I even spent a few years contributing edits. But to ignore its flaws would be a disservice to it.


Never mind the discussion about Wikipedia and higher education, what we need to know - right now - is why @Papasan is posing in front of a giant Wikipedia logo.


I’m not an academic but I’m loathe to click on a link to a Wikipedia entry because I know I’ll be losing the next 10 hours. I was a kid who read the encyclopedia. Wikipedia is crack to me.


On a somewhat related note:

I’ve seen this time and again regarding seemingly trivial subjects, but where it quickly became apparent that the editor had some kind of financial stake in it. Edits like these are so easy to follow; something that was brazen and obvious as far back as (e.g.) 2005 seems utterly stupid 13 years later, or someone’s spoofing the IP address(es).

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So, hence why I’m unclear on what you mean?

I’m not sure what you’re talking about… here is one wikipedia entry on the Book of Job, which has the narrative, as well as things like interpretation:

There is even a list of non-biblical sources at the bottom. Do you have a counter example that doesn’t have both the narrative and other scholarship around it? I’d find it hard to not include the narratives of the bible (or other religious texts) when writing an entry for it.

And my “religious history” I mean the history of religions, which is the study of religions, which often means that they’re using religious texts, because it’s part of that history. It shapes much history, because it shapes people’s behaviors.

Indeed! Like other sources, we have to accept that wikipedia isn’t neutral in the least.


All: trust me when I say that you’ll miss this sort of resource when it’s gone. Enjoy it and its spirit of open dissemination while it’s around!

Right?!? For me, it started earlier, when hyperlinks became a big thing. Well, there goes another day reading about… whatever, and whatever is related to whatever!


I just don’t want a bunch of poorly done research papers based on wikipedia, that do nothing to increase a student’s knowledge of not only the subject matter, but how to do more than surface level research.

Also, wikipedia is at times (often maybe) just plain historically inaccurate. It actively distorts historical memory. That’s a major problem if that’s how most people learn about history.


That is an article about a Bible story, so of course it would refer to the Bible. I was talking about their purported “History” articles that you see listed in the History of Israel box on the right of this page which link to Kingdom of Israel (united monarchy) and Kingdom of Israel (Samaria). Apart from their little disclaimers about “contemporary scholarship” and a couple of sentences in an Archaeology section, it is Bible stories. If you are interested in what scientific archaeologists and historians have to say about this period I don’t think you will find it in Wikipedia (they have another rule against “forking” which prohibits a separate reality-based article).

Thank you for the links, since all you initially said was “history and religion” and that’s a pretty broad category, and since I’m not a mind reader (at any distance) I appreciate the clarification. I agree. Much of that isn’t really about biblical literalism, but biblical literalism in the service of ideology (in this case, the current right wing ideology of greater Israel found in both the American and Israeli right).

But I have no idea why you’re arguing with me about it, since my very first post here was that use of wikipedia for history is problematic since it’s often written by people on one side or the other of a political view point, who are willfully distorting what is becoming more and more the historical record for many people.

but thanks for telling me what I already was saying. I guess I’ll try to spell things out more clearly since I’m obviously not being clear enough.


Yeah, nobody wants inaccuracy. But if solid research and accuracy are only obtained through closed or restricted channels, then it’s hardly worth much. There must be a way to fix it, right? Point being: abuse will abound no matter what the mechanism or medium, as we have seen through the endless numbers of inaccurate books published for X-hundred years. Teaching critical thinking is just as or more important than what one finds in print.

I could go a lifetime without another gravity well argument.

My point was that this is not the usual spin introduced by writers, but a policy decreed by the overlords.

Me too.

As I said to one of my library teachers, Wikipedia can make a great starting bibliography. Especially for a student feeling overwhelmed, and with no idea what to look for. Sometimes just having that boost helps make the difference between a zero-substance paper, and one where you have to decide what to cut to stay below the max word limit.


It’s often outright white washing of history. Straight up lying about events that happened, such as American was a bringer of freedom not a violent opressor in the Philippine American War (the example I linked to of historical distortion). Some people DO want “inaccuracy” because the truth undermines their political positions and their privileged positions.

I’m all for easily accessible community information, but the inaccuracy of wikipedia and other online outlets is shaping how we understand history in dangerous ways. Again, this isn’t just mistakes, it’s distortions that warp history.

And it’s not like information wasn’t easily accessible prior to wikipedia. You’d be surprised how much you can find in a public library, for example. And the internet itself has a problem with misinformation. Not everyone has critical thinking skills because they don’t learn them in K-12 education.

And I’m all for more easily accessible academic work for the public. Having scholars talk about their work in public outside of academia is one way to do that. Having them on TV and radio as experts help. But there is also a right wing attempt to discredit forms of expertise like mine (and to make academics seem like a dangerous class trying to undermine some vague notion of “American” values).

Yes. I’m aware. That being said, I can’t force college students to think critically if they don’t want to. They’ve spent 12 or so years being “educated” in a way that makes them think it’s all about just getting a grade and that I’m out to “get” them instead of to offer them some knowledge and critical thinking skills that will improve their lives in ways outside of the classroom. I get them for a semester (if I’m lucky). Am I (and other lowly paid educators teaching at the survey level) expected to entirely over turn 12 years of bad education? I can only do so much in 15 weeks and I’m not going to get them all. We need to fix the anti-intellectual strain in our society as much as we need to fix public education. These problems go hand in hand and are not to be fixed only by educators (many of whom are underpaid and overworked on all levels).


What overlords are you referring to? Do you mean the head editors of wikipedia or someone else?

Just so you know, that’s not at all what I got from your comment.

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Seriously? I’m quite familiar with public libraries, thank you. Since you brought it up…I assume you well know that the same inaccuracies, lies and even “white washing” are to be found in printed books.

I think we’re basically in agreement here (as many of my previous comments around this BBS will demonstrate). I should have been more clear from the get go. Instead of using the term “nobody” I should have rather said: “It’s my opinion that, generally speaking, people seriously interested in reliable information don’t want inaccuracy.” I further presume that those same people should be wise enough to understand that Wikipedia is not to be considered a touchstone resource. My main point has to do with the spirit of open dissemination of information, an idea that, IMO, seems headed the way of the dodo.

Having read a book or two (a number of which have challenged by own ideas and beliefs), I’m well aware of that fact.

The problem remains that many people just believe it to be true. If wikipedia really wishes to act as a publicly accessible source book, they need to hold themselves to a higher standard. Otherwise, they need to stop touting themselves as such.

Criticizing wikipedia for their failings isn’t that. Information is available to people (both online and offline), as it should be. With or without wikipedia, information and knowledge is more readily at our fingertips than ever before in the history of mankind. That’s something that we should strive for, because it opens up new possibilities.

Criticizing wikipedia is asking them to take their responsibility (which the founders took on themselves, BTW) seriously. No set of information is ever going to be completely free of bias, but working to make those public resources more accurate should be something that wikipedia (and other online sources) SHOULD take seriously.


Again, I think we’re generally in agreement. However, it’s readily demonstrable that Wikipedia does not “tout themselves” as a “source book”.

In fact, the About Wikipedia page is quite clear on the subject, and even more crystalline on the subject is the Disclaimers page. It would be hard to be any more point-blank than the following: