Letters to the Editor

Who Says Wikipedia Isn't Trustworthy?

October 02, 2011

To the Editor:

Perhaps nothing illustrates more clearly the extent to which "education" can become indoctrination than the knee-jerk reaction of instructors and students to the use of the Wikipedia as a source of information. Students have been taught and have learned to parrot back the lesson: "Wikipedia information is not trustworthy. ... Wikipedia is not appropriate for college-level courses."

How do the students know that the Wikipedia is a bad source of information? Have they read articles in it and evaluated them for accuracy, bias, comprehensiveness, etc.? No. Of all of the many students I have had tell me that the Wikipedia is a substandard source of information, none have done a critical study of an article, nor has any student ever told me of a critical study showing the deficiencies of the Wikipedia.

Instead, the students have been "taught" by librarians and English instructors to say that the Wikipedia is not a good source of information, and they uncritically parrot back this "answer" when asked. Surely the thing that librarians and English instructors should be doing is giving students assignments to find and evaluate critically information in the Wikipedia? Shouldn't education be about learning to analyze and explain why something has or does not have quality? Education should not be accepting on faith, memorizing, and repeating back whatever one is told.

Richard Morrill
Reference/Instruction Librarian
Sumter Campus Library
Lake-Sumter Community College
Sumterville, Fla.