Schools continue to decline, now blame Wikipedia, newspaper goes along

Schools fail key measure, blame somebody else. Blame new media, find a sympathetic ear in old media.

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 article is a long rehash of the imperfections of Wikipedia. Missing from the article is any serious investigation of whether the schools themselves were in any way to blame for the failure of their own students to pass standardized exams, whose purpose is typically in part to assess the quality of the schools. [edit: admittedly the schools do blame themselves for failing sufficiently to warn students against using Wikipedia/second edit: I might be faulted for conflating the SPTC with "the schools"] Also missing from the article is any serious investigation of whether the quality of information available from Wikipedia has improved or declined in the past year (the year in which the pass rates fell). Also missing is any attempt to discover whether the particular bad answers that students gave this year were actually a result of getting bad information from Wikipedia. Nor was the obvious question asked: why were students left to learn this information while researching their essays, rather than learning it from the teacher in class - since, presumably, students don't all write identical essays and therefore if this knowledge was indeed supposed to be learned from researching, at best a small fraction of the students could be expected by chance to have written their essays about that particular information and therefore at best a small fraction could be expected to get the question right, even if they all used the infallible Encyclopaedia Britannica.

These gaps in the article are understandable, as they would require actual effort to fill in, and furthermore would run the risk of proving the accusations against Wikipedia to be spurious.

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Education, What Education?

I too was mystified by the article. There seems to be a lot of confusion as to what constitutes education. To me it seems that each class should largely be about mastering a certain established intellectual discipline. This is done under the guidance of the teacher. Class is devoted to imparting the concepts of the discipline in question. The textbook is an independent and supplementary source of information. Information from outside the classroom and text such as internet or library research may be of use in teaching the student how to write papers and how to express themselves. At some time in the future a student may be called upon to demonstrate his knowledge of the discipline he studied, thus evaluating both his mastery of said subject and the adequacy of his educators.

For example, suppose the student is taking a class in geology. The subject would be taught by a geologist. Each student would buy a book about geological principles. Supplementary papers might be required which might be taken from the library or library. If erroneous information was being learned by students, the professor would correct the misunderstanding by pointing out the student's error.

If the mastery of students on examinations has declined, why blame it on the effect of supplemental information, which may or may not be erroneous which may have been obtained from Wikipedia? If students are supposed to educate themselves primarily by writing or in some cases plagiarizing, cutting and pasting accurate or inaccurate information onto school papers there is no mystery about the decline in academic achievement. It is due to a lack of teaching on the part of teachers and a lack of learning on the part of students.

Dave

Agreed

Thanks - you've explained much more fully what I was getting at in the "obvious question".

Rather than doing his/her job, which would (one might imagine) include probing the claims a little more deeply, the reporter in effect rubber-stamps the claims made by the SPTC and then essentially uses it as a convenient excuse to tear into Wikipedia. So what starts out as a news item about one thing (school failure) ends up as an editorial about something completely different (the danger of abandoning old media in favor of new media).

Against declinism

The newest generation isn't as bad as it is made out to be, especially considering the Boomers who often make such an argument. See the GNXP series (only one post in it so far, but more are promised to come) previous generations were more depraved.

Just to clarify

I hope I wasn't interpreted as implying that the kids are getting more depraved, or stupider, or whatever. As far as I know, when all is taken into account they're turning out just fine, same as always. My targets are the (I believe) self-serving claims of the SPTC and the self-serving acquiescence to those claims by the paper. The latter has the gall to refer favorably and, it sure seems, indignantly, to itself:

Boasting over two million articles, Wikipedia is used by about 6 per cent of internet users, significantly more than the traffic to more authorised sites, such as those of newspapers. Its articles are mainly edited by a team of volunteers.

Authorized? By whom? The government?

If you meant that the newspaper article is itself declinist, by treating the informational renaissance that is the web as if it were some sort of informational apocalypse, then I would agree.