The Bavarian school system is always good for a surprise.

Whenever they have to deal with a totally new topic, my advice for high school students is to first look into wikipedia and see what can bei found therein on the subject of your choice. Just like all normal people, such as tenured employees, house wives, assistants, and probably also teachers (?) do.

The answer I get from students is that this is useless, because wikipedia is not reliable and cannot bei cited. Which is why students are advised not to cite from wikipedia by high school teachers.

I usually ask why that is so. The students’ answer is quite simple: according to their teachers, anybody can publish in Wikipedia at their own whim, which is why wikipedia contains a lot of wrong and uncertified statements. This is the answer I got from two students – totally independent from each other – who attend two different high schools in the south of Munich.

Now I have personally met quite a few people who publish in wikipedia. I also have a certain degree of insight into the strict selection process. And I know that whatever is written in wikipedia has to be documented beyond any doubt (which, in my personal opinion, is a little too strict). Not to mention all the tests showing that the quality of wikipedia is certainly no worse than that of commercial thesauri. The fact that the broad horizon of wikipedia far exceeds that of any competitor can easily be verified by just trying.

From personal experience, I also know how control mechanisms get active within seconds as soon as an entry does not answer to all the relevant criteria or if an article has errors. Incidentally, Microsofts Encarta is absolutely citable at high school level. As I have recently heard, Encarta is not to be further developed by Microsoft for economical reasons. That might be an indication for the success of wikipedia.

So what is the reason for all this negative reputation of wikipedia at high schools in the south-east of Munich? Is it a central briefing by the ministry of education, or grapevine talk initiated by the competition, or is it just the teachers’ ignorance?

Would it not be nicer if teachers made their students enthusiastic about wikipedia and told them how difficult it is to get a consolidated and democratic majority? And how well this process actually works in wikipedia? And how about giving due credit to all the bona fide work invested, both in the past and ongoing? And what about telling students what an impressive example of new social structures in global co-operation and value exploitation wikipedia provides? And that a world-wide knowledge NGO (Non Government Organisation) has been built!

(Translated by EG)

2 Kommentare zu “Wikipedia and Me #6 – “Against Bavarian High Schools“ or „In Favour of Wikipedia””

  1. Lonesome (Saturday May 16th, 2009)


  2. Sabine (Tuesday May 19th, 2009)


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