Let’s face it. Wikipedia is amazing. Not only in the humanities but in just about every discipline one can think of. I think it’s great that its founder is being recognized in his lifetime. All too often great figures go by unnoticed because those upholding old patterns just can’t see what’s right before their eyes.
So what about academia. Is it really that great?
Well, I had a good experience, especially in undergrad studies. But looking back, Wikipedia entries are probably more balanced and informative than most of what my undergrad professors put out. Don’t be fooled. Some profs just follow a textbook or two. They might have read a few more books in the area. But generally, the sheer amount of info one can get from Wikipedia is better than what you’d get in an undergraduate humanities course.
And the fee?
University fees have been steadily rising. And not only that. It’s been harder and harder for less privileged youths to get funding. Let’s not beat around the bush. University is a type of finishing school for many kids who can afford it. For those who can’t, it has been a symbol of oppression.
Just go to a small university town and compare the university students to the “townies” as some used to call them. The gap is painfully obvious.
But here’s the biggest joke of all. Universities can be corrupt. Not too many people realize it but corruption isn’t just about the most visible stories that hit the news. We tend to turn a blind eye to those things that benefit us, while scapegoating those that do not.
So I ask: Are some outspoken academic critics of Wikipedia not only pompous but corrupt windbags?
Of course, not all academics are snobs or directly involved in corrupt activities. But quite possibly the snooty narrow-mindedness of some is at least partly or indirectly supported by some form of institutional corruption.
So my message to anyone who has not been to university: Don’t feel any less than someone who has. What matters is to be able to think freely. And Wikipedia can be a fantastic launch pad for critical thinking. Sure, it only gives outlines. But they are excellent, densely interlinked outlines. And if you want to go further in a particular topic, Wikipedia articles do have a bibliography and external links. So the next step would be the public library, bookstore or just more web surfing.
Forget the pompous windbags. They’re probably carping because they fear that their status – and associated perks – are threatened. Their days are numbered. Knowledge, like anything else, should be available to anyone who wants and needs it.
Letter: Academic enrichment (bostonherald.com)
The 10 colleges where students get the best education for their money (businessinsider.com)