Why Wikipedia Rocks and Schools Need to Catch Up

by Ashok Nayar

So yeah, Wikipedia rocks. I don’t think there is a site I use to grab more information than Wikipedia. And I absolutely detest when people diminish it to an encyclopedia written by 12 year olds. The concept behind Wikipedia is that if there are 12 year olds writing content, there will be a 50 year old expert editing that content and locking it.

We’re not allowed to cite Wikipedia in school. If what you are after is information, I don’t think there is a more succinct and direct source than Wikipedia. Sure, you be concerned about credibility if you’re running for Mayor, but realistically, credibility in information is for the most part transparent online these days. The internet is democratic enough to filter out in-credible sources. The most interesting part is in the diminishing of objective information. So if one is writing a piece regarding the history of Rock and Roll, and cites Wikipedia, it won’t be recognized in academia today. Why? The excuse is the lack of credibility. The real reason? The lack of understanding of how objective information is inherently transparent and credible. Who would doubt that Led Zeppelin continue to be held in high regard for their artistic achievements, commercial success, and broad influence? Sure since it comes from Wikipedia, it must not be credible right? Well I guess the Rolling Stones must not be trusted either.

Information is the end result. Finding that information and how it’s found must not be questioned. Credibility these days is rather inherent in online information. Everything else is filtered out. As Seth Godin writes,

“Here’s what just about every exam ought to be: “Use Firefox to find the information you need to answer this question:” And as the internet gets smarter, the questions are going to have to get harder. Which is a good thing.”

The funniest part about the whole thing? I don’t know one student who doesn’t use Wikipedia to source information. We just forget to cite it.