Sunday, June 22, 2008

Either they are morons in Scotland or it's all Wikipedia's fault

Of course, you couldn't blame the schools, the curriculum, the lack of adequate funding, the size of the classes, the outdated philosophy of trying to teach kids with a paper-and-pencil mentality in the age of iPods and laptops or the inability of teachers to teach kids when to spot "bullshit."

WIKIPEDIA and other online research sources were yesterday blamed for Scotland's falling exam pass rates.

The Scottish Parent Teacher Council (SPTC) said pupils are turning to websites and Internet resources that contain inaccurate or deliberately misleading information before passing it off as their own work.

The group singled out online encyclopedia Wikipedia, which allows entries to be logged or updated by anyone and is not verified by researchers, as the main source of information.

Standard Grade pass rates were down for the first time in four years last year and the SPTC is now calling for pupils to be given lessons on using the Internet appropriately for additional research purposes "before the problem gets out of hand".

Really, you would think plagiarism was just invented a few years ago. No, the ability to change the font in a word processing application means you can yank a few pieces from here and from there and make it all look like it was your own. When someone catches up to this idea, then research material will be in a set, identifiable font that can't be reformatted or altered.

This is an example of text YOU copied from a research study. You can't change this font or this color once you copy it into a text editor. Now, quit being lazy and do your own work.

That means that, when you cut and paste it, the attributes can't change and it leaps out at you from the page--meaning, you have to attribute it. I know, someone already thought of that. If they haven't, then I want my nickel, please.

Laziness, cheating, and failure to pay attention to detail have been around as long as the schools have.

What has changed is not that kids are using Wikipedia--Wikipedia is no different than writing book reports out of the Encyclopedia Brittanica. What has changed is that the technology makes it possible to work faster and more seamlessly by allowing the user to quickly search, copy and paste, and submit work without applying much effort.

So do you blame the cesspool of half-baked submissions and endless pissing matches over controversial subjects that happens on any slightly controversial Wikipedia page or do you teach the kid to use the tool responsibly, honestly and efficiently?

I have a pact I have made with my kids--long before they realize it and long before I probably should, I am going to teach them to identify, process and reject bullshit, whether it's from an adult, from a classmate, a website, a politician or a piece of literature.

So long as I can do that, and I hope I do it well, I'll have solved that problem.


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