Monday, January 23, 2012

The Way Students Rely on Wikipedia for Their Facts Doesn’t Say Much for America

You know what’s wrong with America?

Well, at this point, just about everything. But let’s focus on our education system for now.

When Wikipedia blacked out its site this past Wednesday in protest of the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), which could all too easily be used to censor websites and content posted online, students freaked out, tweeting complaints such as:

“Wikipedia can’t go! How on earth and I going to do my history homework?”

“They shut down Wikipedia? DAMN IT. I have a lab report due tomorrow.”

“How am I supposed to do my homework without Wikipedia. Dear good grades, #yourtimesup”

This does not say anything good for what America is becoming or even what it is now.

Despite Wikipedia becoming less unreliable over the last few years thanks to its new source requirements, it’s still not exactly welcome in the scientific community. Professionals don’t go around citing Wikipedia as a general rule. And with good reason, since the site’s content is still user-created.

Yet directly or indirectly, children are still being encouraged to utilize the database as fact instead of possible fiction. Blame it on Hollywood’s message of instant gratification, parental neglect and/or stupidity, or America’s education system in general, which usually does everything but teach students to dig deeper than the easy or the popular thing to do… But it’s a problem regardless.

Yahoo! Shine’s Piper Weiss writes that Wikipedia can be “a boon for education. If used correctly – that’s to say with skepticism and non-exclusivity – it can lead students to stronger sources, teach them the value of investigation and even the importance of questioning the true nature of fact.”

But what in America makes her think most children – or even adults – have any desire to do any of that? The repeated flash gang riots in Philadelphia last year? The lazy, greedy, destructive Occupy Wall Street movement, which was filled with college-aged products of public education? The high levels of teen pregnancy – when contraception is readily available – drug and alcohol abuse?

Perhaps one anonymous student summed it up best with his or her tweet of “Dear Wikipedia, I get where you’re coming from but this blackout business is bull. I have homework to do.”

Translation: Nothing matters except myself in this very moment and not a second or person beyond.

And that’s what’s wrong with America.

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