The Legitimacy of Wikipedia

By Dan Kingsley

Encyclopædia Britannica is regarded by many to be the premier resource. Its hollowed pages, from volumes A to Z, are said to possess the canon of Western knowledge; this distinction maybe in question with the recent emergence of the free encyclopedia.

Wikipedia, created by web programmers Larry Sanger and Jimmy Wales, runs on the idea that information should be available for the consumption of all. Anyone may post an article on this ever-growing website. Readers may review articles for their own leisure. However, some take the effort to expand them. This is known as open-content. The English language section, created in 2001, alone, possesses more than 1,423,000 typed articles, to date. Articles cover topics as simple as pro-sports to as academic as Aristotelian philosophy. In addition, entries may also be found in French, Spanish, Japanese, and other languages.

Open content is Wikipedia's strength. It doesn't rely on expert writers, but a group of avid and knowledgeable readers. This feature has earned the website many critics. They claim Wikipedia is vulnerable to vandalism, plagiarism, and inaccuracy, and nothing is done about it. This is not so. Wikipedia, as an editorial policy, requires a certain level of vocabulary, factual accuracy, and neutrality for any posting. If an article does not meet these requirements they are often marked as being lacking, in need of revision, or scheduled for deletion as revealed in a disclaimer in the article's beginning; an example of this, the website's article about President George W. Bush, who is held as a controversial political figure in many parts of the world, opens with the textbox: 'Because of recent vandalism or other disruption, editing of this article by anonymous or newly registered users is currently disabled. Such users may discuss changes, request unprotection, or create an account' The English edition's article about the United States, when it comes to quality states is considered 'too long.'

Students, teachers, and researchers use the website as a legitimate resource for assignments, readings, and the like. Father John, a philosophy teacher on staff, refers his senior students to Wikipedia if they missed class discussions about Plato's world of forms or Aristotle's theory about the human soul. The student congress team uses it to develop new points and ideas for speech competitions.

Ultimately, Wikipedia provides information freely to inquiring minds in one concise search.