Ridiculousness in Academia: Banning Google is Not the Answer

January 14, 2008

At the University of Brighton in England, a lecturer frustrated by the banal, poorly researched papers she has been receiving from her students has decided to do away with what she perceives is the enemy: she is banning the use of google and wikipedia by her students. 

Way to strike the problem at its source, professor. 

I’m no stranger to academic types bemoaning the net and how it is going to be the downfall of literacy; in fact, I’ve been know to bitch about how the web is eroding many people’s abilities to communicate clearly (I can’t stand text-speak or wHeN pEepS wRIte LikE thIs).  However, the internet is not the enemy here, the problem is way more complex than that.

If you want your students to write interesting, thoroughly researched papers, don’t ban google or wikipedia – teach them how to critically analyze information, including what they kind on the net.  Google and wikipedia should never be the only research sources, but they are certainly a good starting point.  Good fact-checking skills are paramount, however, and of course no one should ever cite a google query or a wikipedia article as a source in an academic paper.

“Too many students don’t use their own brains enough. We need to bring back the important values of research and analysis.”

So discounting banning an entire sector of the world’s repository of knowledge (and really, the only one that can be searched quickly and efficiently, and updated instantly) is teaching students to use their brains.  Right.  Teaching them to use the web, books, papers, and various other useful sources in combination for research, and to look at their sources critically and verify their accuracy, that would just be too difficult.  Better just to cut out the web entirely, it’s all porn, lolcats, and amateurs anyways.

Besides, something that is in print is automatically valid - after all, trees died for it, so it must be true. 

Thanks to Scoble for pointing me to this article, and for saying that “If I were a professor and I wanted my students to go deeper than “first level Google searches” I’d just grade tougher. Really, is it any more difficult than that? Geesh.”  I concur.

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