I am a student at Steamboat Springs High School. Recently, our Library Media Center directors and Technology department requested a block on Wikipedia, an online encyclopedia that is free and includes a ton of information regarding just about everything. Wikipedia is now blocked. A majority of the student population is outraged. I am writing to the Steamboat Pilot & Today in an effort to get it unblocked, as even letters from teachers to the tech department have gone unheeded.
Wikipedia was created on Jan. 15, 2001 as "The Free Encyclopedia that anyone can edit." Wikipedia is now available in more than 250 languages, in virtually every country in the world, and has more than 4.5 million articles ranging from the chemical geometry of Tetrahydrocannabinol to why the Roman Empire declined. Wikipedia is backed up by hundreds of editors who constantly check pages for accuracy and hijacking. Editors are responsible for also writing quality articles with accurate information.
The Tech department's argument for blocking Wikipedia is that students are directly copying off Wikipedia's encyclopedia and citing a different source on their works cited page, required with nearly every research project at SSHS. But couldn't you simply do that with any source? I could cite Microsoft's Encarta encyclopedia and copy off About.com. Isn't it the job of checking source accuracy the students' and teachers' responsibilities?
An even remotely acceptable excuse to block Wikipedia would be that anyone can edit Wikipedia and that some of its information isn't always accurate. However, a recent issue of Nature Magazine discussed the results of a study about the accuracy of Wikipedia in comparison to Encyclopedia Britannica. In a surprising conclusion, Nature found out that Wikipedia has about two times the amount of errors in its' articles, but is also has about two and a half times more content. For example, there is an article in Wikipedia about Dmitry Mendeleev, one of the co-creators of the periodic table. This article has 19 errors in it whereas Britannica's entry has eight, but Wikipedia's article is more than twice as long and has more than twice the content of Britannica's.
Wikipedia is available in more than 250 languages with the full encyclopedia available in about 100. This is extremely useful when learning a foreign language, as all the articles in each language are very similar and are laid out in the same format. For example, the French IV classes at SSHS recently did a project about various African countries. When learning complex cultural words, having Wikipedia available in both French and English helps the French IV students learn.
Why Wikipedia? There are plenty of other famous sites out there that are even more inaccurate than Wikipedia and that people can edit as well. Take About.com, for example. Its articles are written by its users. However, this site is not blocked. It just doesn't make sense. The action of the tech committee seems arbitrary.
It is OK to block inappropriate sites like those with pornography, vulgar language and violence. But to block Wikipedia? This is completely unacceptable. What is going to be blocked next? HighBeam's free Encyclopedia? Google even? I don't know, but the arbitrary censoring must end.