Friday, January 26, 2007

"It is the world's blog."

Wikipedia was the topic when Professor Alan Liu closed a long post with those words.

I seem to be working my way backwards here, and doing it in some haste, because I get wordy when I wax professorial. But, this seemed an appropriate topic, considering that I frequently link to Wikipedia articles in these posts. Don't think, however, that I do it without a good solid knowledge of that resource's strengths and limitations.

To that end, I encourage the interested to investigate the two following links.

The first is to an article from Inside Higher Education, a publication that, despite my no longer spending much of each day in the classroom, I remain subscribed to, at least electronically. Titled, "A Stand Against Wikipedia," it details some of the problems faced by those of us who (forgive me if I slip into present tense) strive to teach students the difference between a good and a mediocre or sometimes even bad source. Wikipedia can be, emphatically, all three. As with so many things, it depends. Thus the title of the second post, Liu's, "To the Student, Appropriate Use of Wikipedia" (the key word being appropriate). Some years ago, when I directed the entire freshman comp course at the school where I taught, I strongly discouraged my colleagues from outright outlawing of just about anything. Judgement, it seemed, was one of the things we were striving to develop in our charges, and a healthy skepticism of universals was one of the first steps toward developing that judgement. Universals, like stereotypes and prejudices, short circuit the judgement process. And Liu, studiously avoids that pitfall.

So if you love Wikipedia, or if you hate it, you're likely to learn something either way by following those links and listening. And if you have to choose, I'd go with Liu's piece first--it's good advice for anyone. The other, on the problems of academics (the two-legged variety; not the topic as a whole), is more interesting to, well, academics.