Google & Wikipedia Banned in School Again

    January 14, 2008

So another college professor has banned Wikipedia (and Google). Oh, woe is me. The world is ending. Oh, the stifling of creative thought at institutions of higher learning these days. Censorship! Censorship!


This story is only news to people who’ve been out of school too long. For most of us in our every day lives, a perfunctory Google search is enough research to answer a question. And, honestly, if you’re working on a research paper and you need to be reminded what day Pearl Harbor was bombed, Wikipedia and/or Google will probably suffice.

However, Google or Wikipedia is not an adequate resource when you’re working on a scholarly paper. When I was an undergrad, a professor I worked for “banned” Wikipedia (this was in 2004, I believe) for our students’ research papers—and every other encyclopedia. Honestly, I didn’t write a paper for school based on an encyclopedia entry after the fifth grade (when we called them “reports,” not essays or research papers, or any other name that implied critical thought).

While this was a 100-level class, my professor wanted to teach students that an encyclopedia is not an adequate resource for a college-level research paper. Frankly, neither is Google. Those resources might occasionally be a good place to start when trying to learn more about a topic, but beyond the basics and into the realm of critical thought, they’re woefully lacking.

To many of us who rely on Google and Wikipedia for fast facts, it might seem appalling that a teacher would ban their use in a learning environment. But let’s put it this way: when you’re in college, going to school, learning and presenting your original, critical thought is your job. Would you make reports to superiors or clients that you created from Wikipedia or whatever came up on top in Google at your job?

For fast, basic facts, yes, it would probably work—the capital of Ghana (Accra), the GDP of Azerbaijan ($59.71 billion (2006 est.)), the dates of World War I (1914-1918, treaty in 1919), for example. But when you’re turning in work to be graded on your critical thought, are you just going to cut and paste the #1 result in Google for what comes up in your thesis statement?

It wouldn’t pass as “analysis,” a “report,” or even “work” at most companies, and there’s no reason why it should qualify as scholarly thought in a university setting.

Well done, Professor Brabazon. Well done. You know, even if it’s completely impossible to enforce and won’t stand up a minute once they’re out of your eyesight.