Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Does the Wikipedia Matter?

(fm the BC thread "Into the Memory Hole")

I’d wear this as a badge of honor
While within our small community that may be true as an issue in the greater contest of ideas I must disagree without I hope being disagreeable.

The core of Wikipedia is the Britannica 11th edition of 1911. That is an invaluable resource that people should be encouraged to access. The wiki is also the first place that many people go to when exploring a wide range of subjects, especially students. If we are concerned about how the education system is failing our civilization then we want to ensure that the best and least biased information is available to those students. We who frequent this Club have repeatedly reviewed the many challenges facing us. The consensus appears to be that there are only three possible responses;
1. surrender,
2. rebellion,
3. engagement.

The first I find unacceptable and the second while possible, or even important to be willing to accept if circumstances warrant it, is one that we must to be true to our own values avoid if at all possible. That leaves engagement. We must prove that we cherish our civilization and Constitution and are seeking to preserve them. That means involvement in local politics and education. From that it follows that we must care about the quality of the information that students access. It does no good to rail against the wiki and say that students should learn better search techniques. We all use the wiki too, if only to find out how the information stream is being polluted.

If a good high school or college student is preparing an assignment on the naval event in Korea, or the Health Care vote or Climategate, we want them to do a search and find the Belmont Club on the list of results. If they are researching the War on Terror we want them to find the "Three Conjectures," which I think should be available on a side bar link under the heading "Classics."

We know that they will and maybe should look at the wiki to find out about the sources offered and to find out if they are credible enough to consider or even spend time looking at. If the wiki does not include the BC but does include the HuffPo then thousands of students will potentially be cut off from us. Our ability to engage in the conversation where it counts, that is outside of this narrow circle, will be reduced. That is a real impact that hurts us.

In another issue if not being listed in the wiki reduces traffic to here, even if those visitors would not be direct referrals from the wiki, then that costs the owners of PJM advertising revenue.

Note, the Belmont Club article has been restored by Wikipedia

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