Academia

Finally, a Good Reason to Declaim Wikipedia

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Mark Bauerlein, occasional reason contributor and author of the provocative and exhaustingly subtitled book The Dumbest Generation: How the Digital Age Stupefies Young Americans and Jeopardizes Our Future (Or, Don't Trust Anyone Under 30), has come up with a legitimately interesting critique of my favorite online resource:

The site is criticized for its superficiality, erroneousness, and amateurism, but, in fact, Wikipedia provides ready access to a fact, definition, or overview. No, the real problem with Wikipedia is a stylistic one. Read a dozen entries on the similar topics and they all sound the same. The outline is formulaic, the prose numbingly bland. Sentences unfold in tinny sequence. Perspectives arise in overcareful interplay. If a metaphor pops up, it's a dead one. Consider the entry on Moby-Dick:

Ahab seeks one specific whale, Moby-Dick, a great white whale of tremendous size and ferocity. Comparatively few whaling ships know of Moby-Dick, and fewer yet have knowingly encountered the whale. In a previous encounter, the whale destroyed Ahab's boat and bit off Ahab's leg. Ahab intends to exact revenge on the whale.

Compare that to a sentence from Collier's Encyclopedia, first published in 1950: "As he makes very clear to Starbuck, his first mate, Captain Ahab envisions in Moby-Dick the visible form of a malicious Fate which governs man thoughtlessly…" Or the description of Ahab in the 1953 Encyclopedia Americana: "a crazed captain whose one thought is the capture of a ferocious monster that had maimed him…" Or even this in CliffsNotes from 1966: "Ahab's monomania is seen then in his determination to view the White Whale as the symbol of all the evil of the universe."

Wikipedia, concludes Bauerlein, an English prof at Emory, is "a useful repository of information, but as a model of discourse, it's a killjoy."

Whole thing here.

reason on Wikipedia creator and libertarian visionary Jimmy Wales.

NEXT: And They're Off!

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  1. If I wasn’t so lazy I’d like to save successive versions of a Wikipedia entry to see how they change over time, as each new contributor tries to wipe away any trace of personality displayed by his predecessors.

  2. I think the real problem with Wikipedia is its insistence on attribution in a world where many people make it their hobby to know, just know certain subjects thoroughly without keeping notes on where or how they found out. I’m such an expert on certain subjects through decades of contact, such as minor league men’s & women’s American football, but I’ll be damned if I can cite sources for what I just plain know — and I’m sure there are tons of other such people out there. So the entire section I added to their Super Bowl day featured article was promptly edited out, leaving the impression that adults don’t play American football in North America unless they’re male professionals or collegians. They’d rather convey a toal falsehood thru silence than to allow an unsourced section that may be a bit inaccurate in a featured article.

  3. Quattro,
    Wikipedia already does that for you. Simply go to any article you like, say this one, and select the history tab at the top. From there you can compare changes or just view the archived pages one at a time.

  4. Wikipedia, concludes Bauerlein, an English prof at Emory, is “a useful repository of information, but as a model of discourse, it’s a killjoy.”

    Well, sure. But that’s what I love about it! I’m an engineering nerd, and I like the consistent (aka bland) structure of Wikipedia. It makes it easy to find the information with such consistent visual cues.

    There still ain’t no problem with Wikipedia as a quick and dirty resource of information in my book.

  5. When Wikipedia becomes my model for discourse, kill me.

    Seriously, who doesn’t just use it to look up some obscure fact or other?

  6. Robert | May 23, 2008, 6:51pm | #
    I think the real problem with Wikipedia is its insistence on attribution in a world where many people make it their hobby to know … certain subjects… I’m such an expert on … minor league men’s & women’s American football. So the entire section I added to their Super Bowl day featured article was promptly edited out.

    Not to wholly defend Wikipedia’s policies here but this one I fully understand.

    You say you are an expert on American football and indeed you may be but I don’t know you from Warren. Without attribution to an outside source, vetting if you will, you are asking Wikipedia (and by extension it’s users) to take your assertion that football is indeed played by non-professionals or my contention that Goddard didn’t really launch the first US Rocket. Either one may readily be true but just as it’s better to have a thousand guilty men walk than one innocent in jail, it’s better to omit that which cannot be proven than have a fallacy in an encyclopedia.

    Of course the prevalence of said fallacies in Wikipedia are a direct consequence of both it’s open nature and lack of said attribution being enforced properly.

    Like so many things, you get what you pay for and with Wikipedia it is definitely buyer beware.

  7. anybody who uses the phase “model of discourse” needs to get out of academia and get a real job.

    He sounds like this guy’s friend = http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XCumH8LRo1A

  8. It’s bland because it’s utilitarian, unlike a set of expensive leather-bound encyclopedias.

    That’s what I want when I go there – clean, concise, simple language so the information (information Collier’s wouldn’t give a shit about most of the time) gets from the page to my brain quickly.

  9. This argument (basically, Wikipedia entries are bland-hello, it’s an encylopedia, not a hollywood movie) is such a nitpicky one that even bringing it up shows anti-Wikipedia bias, IMHO. Plus, how the hell would one even quantify “blandness”? This is just stupid.

  10. The Whale is Red, a neo-Marxist interpretation of Moby Dick

  11. Mark Bauerlein is an “occasional Reason contributor”? Given the subject matter of his book (and its anti-tech subtitle), I assumed he must be one of those stodgy killjoys at the Weakly* Standard.

    * pun, not typo.

  12. Plus, how the hell would one even quantify “blandness”?

    Subjectively, of course.

  13. “Moby-Dick” is hyphenated? Not two words?

  14. Wikipedia a killjoy? Well, I suppose if you actually like flowery, overwritten, unreadable prose (like the quoted Collier’s entry), then yeah, it’s a killjoy…

    It would take an English professor to come up with something this stupid…

  15. Robert, I share your frustration, but I’ve come to agree with Kwix on this one. I’ve seen far too many contributors who “knew” that aliens were living under the White House, or that Jews ate babies, or that there was already a secret deal for a Los Angeles NFL team for this fall.

    I’m a Wikipedia inclusionist, so when I see contributions like yours, I just put in a {{subst:Fact-now}} tag and move on. You might try adding in your local knowledge and throwing in a fact tag. A deletionist still might tromp along and whack it, and they’d be right, but they might think twice if you’ve acknowledged that you don’t have a source (with a datestamp).

  16. Either one may readily be true but just as it’s better to have a thousand guilty men walk than one innocent in jail, it’s better to omit that which cannot be proven than have a fallacy in an encyclopedia.

    It’s funny because I would interpret that maxim in the opposite way, that contributions should *stay* in Wikipedia until they are proved false – in my way of looking at it, a contribution is like a defendant and removing the contribution is like finding it guilty.

  17. “Oh noes! It’s too dry!” Moving on….

  18. “occasional reason contributor” = one book review?

  19. “As he makes very clear to Starbuck, his first mate, Captain Ahab envisions in Moby-Dick the visible form of a malicious Fate which governs man thoughtlessly…”

    Citation needed.

    “a crazed captain whose one thought is the capture of a ferocious monster that had maimed him…”

    The neutrality of this article is disputed.

    “Ahab’s monomania is seen then in his determination to view the White Whale as the symbol of all the evil of the universe.”

    This rest of this section needs copy editing for grammar, style, cohesion, tone or spelling.

  20. e,

    Agreed. It’s what the fact tag (“citation needed”) is for. Unless you have good reason to believe it bullshit (and that should go in the edit comment and/or the talk page), you should put in a dated fact tag (“{{subst:Fact-now}}”) and revisit it in a month or two.

  21. rimfax, interesting, the conflict between “inclusionist” and “deletionist” factions seems to define the ongoing Wikipedian Hegelian dialectic.

  22. Old hard-copy encyclopedias could hire professors proficient at using style to hide their biases.

    Sgt. Friday had poor style, but he uncovered the facts.

  23. No, the real problem with Wikipedia is a stylistic one. Read a dozen entries on the similar topics and they all sound the same. The outline is formulaic, the prose numbingly bland. Sentences unfold in tinny sequence.

    This criticism isn’t anything new. People have criticized Wiki prose and style for years. I always felt that every sentence in Wikipedia read as if it were written by committee. Surprise, they are!

    The problems with the evolution of a Wiki article are almost too many to list without writing a feature length article.

    Still, that doesn’t invalidate Wiki, but I still say it’s never…ever going to be a difinitive information source.

  24. I don’t think some of you people understand some of the advantages of owning a really fine set of modern encyclopedias

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fsvWVbBowXo

  25. Yeah, this author’s criticism of Wikipedia is poor. I see from the title of his book that he has some, um, questionable biases. Wikipedia is one of those great tools for improving the literacy of the youth and all Bauerlein can do is criticize it for its lack of sparkling prose.
    We live in a very ADHD culture, I’ll agree, but Wikipedia is a “gateway library”. You know, some guy says “Hegelian dialectic”, you look it up on wiki, next thing you know, you’re reading a book. But, you know, I’m the type of guy who just goes to websites like this, only reads maybe a dozen nonfiction books, sites like this and maybe a few magazines (XXL, Scientific American, Electronic Gaming Monthly, Mental Floss). I’ll admit that it’ll take me awhile before I actually read “Moby Dick”, if I ever do (I’m not one to be intimidated by a book’s length, but between that and “Atlas Shrugged”, come on).

  26. or that there was already a secret deal for a Los Angeles NFL team for this fall.

    It’s true! The Rams are moving back! Don’t ask me where I heard it, I just know. 🙂

  27. Paul | May 23, 2008, 7:41pm | #

    Still, that doesn’t invalidate Wiki, but I still say it’s never…ever going to be a difinitive information source.

    Heck, Wikipedia itself doesn’t want you to use it as the main source for anything important, just like you shouldn’t use any printed encylopedia as you main source for anything either. That is, if you are doing a report or paper on X, Wikipedia is a good place to start, but it better not be also where you finish.

  28. I agree–going to Wikipedia for stylistic flair would be like buying a british sports car for it’s reliability.

    If I want style and fine prose, it’s the c. 1911 edition of Encyclopaedia Brittanica for me.

  29. The dullness problem is an IMO inevitable consequence of committee work, which is what Wikis are.

    Either one may readily be true but just as it’s better to have a thousand guilty men walk than one innocent in jail, it’s better to omit that which cannot be proven than have a fallacy in an encyclopedia.

    Except that in some cases, the omission of some material itself implies a falsity. Like failure to include earlier inventions, etc.

    In my case I wanted to get the material in there quickly to remedy the misimpression and then rally others to put in at least some cites later. I hadn’t realized there was such a mechanism already, but I don’t know if it works for featured pieces.

    I could technically cite some published sources for trivia regarding minor league football — for example, I could cite a program or a roster or a ticket that I saved from a game of no particular importance from years ago that would “prove” that minor league football existed — but of what use is a piece of paper that I have that isn’t archived anywhere handy for anyone else?

    Same thing regarding citation of borax as an ingredient of some bath salts; of what use would a label from a box from, say, 20 years ago be to someone looking up info? So I could technically comply with Wikipedia’s fetish for citation while being useless in practice. Hey, a program or a product label that was available to the public at one time is published, ain’t it?

  30. I use Wikipedia sometimes as a source of facts, but mostly as a primer and home-page for my topic of interest. Wikipedia doesn’t so much inform me directly as give me a feel for the territory, and a structure along with useful cross-references and links, to help direct my own exploration of the topic.

    Somedays, I wish that I could rely on Wikipedia for “one-stop information shopping.” But other days, I’m glad to trust it only so far, and pursue as many other sources as I can for “the rest of the story.”

    On balance, Wikipedia is definitely useful to me. For the dry first pass at “just the facts,” it’s pretty good. If I want personality, I can jump off to cited blogs or web articles, where juicier (and often more authoritative) stuff usually awaits. It’s a nice balance.

  31. I read Moby Dick, and I thought the Patrick Stewart TV movie was pretty good.

    The guy who played Quique was great, too. If dat be a whale’s eye, DAT WHALE BE DEAD! BAAAAAAHHHHHHH!!!!

  32. Robert: Why don’t you just scan your ticket stubs in? Upload them to Wikipedia and use them as sources. Or upload them to your flickr account. I don’t care. But you do have options.

  33. Wikipedia is a MMORPG where dorks play fascist dorks.

  34. Dr. Johnson’s dictionary had more style and authorial personality than the ODE, too. The point here is…?

  35. Damn spellchecker! That’s O.E.D., Damnit! (Sheesh!)

  36. Art-P.O.G., we aren’t claiming that Wikipedia is useless. The existance of a free quasi-open online encyclopedia is of great value. What we complain about are the Wikipedians’ assertion that it can do no wrong. Sure, it’s full of disclaimers and shit, but its fans ignore that when they gush on about it. It is not authoritative, full of errors, and extremely biased.

    Wikipedia is the “good enough” that will keep “good” online community encyclopedias from being created.

  37. Nick Gillespie continues to shine, even as most people forget he even existed in the first place.

    Meanwhile, here are some of the reasons you can’t trust Wikipedia.

  38. “It’s funny because I would interpret that maxim in the opposite way, that contributions should *stay* in Wikipedia until they are proved false – in my way of looking at it, a contribution is like a defendant and removing the contribution is like finding it guilty.”

    Uh OK. When I get that proof that Jews don’t cause all the problems in the world, I’ll get back to you, OK now?

  39. Wikipedia is the “good enough” that will keep “good” online community encyclopedias from being created.

    Really? The orthodox view (to which I also subscribe) is that nothing can be be ‘good enough’ to actually crowd out ‘better’ competition. There may be switchover costs that would require competition to be a discrete minimum level higher than the established brand.

    But everything eventually will either get better or be gotten rid of.

    Plus, for this specific example aren’t there several more focused wiki’s out there (and not sponsored by the wiki foundation)?

  40. Why don’t you just scan your ticket stubs in?

    Because that’d be a smartass thing to do, about like citing them would be. They would just be a way of saying, “I’m not lying”, and that’s not what this is about. (Actually they hardly ever print tickets for these games, but I’ll take the remark as extending to other souvenirs.) Actually I could cite better stuff like issues of Minor Pro Football Report, but all of this is sort of like backing up an assertion that France exists by pointing out a few Frenchmen.

    But you can probably think of better examples than football. There are lots of things that are just known about to some people, but any example one cited of same would just be a trivium, unworthy of citation to establish the general case. Like for instance light switches. An electrician could explain their operation, styles, etc., but be hard put to come up with anything citable for Wikipedia. Yet there is no reason to doubt what the electrician is saying, and who better to explain the subject?

    Yes, Wikipedia isn’t supposed to be for original findings, but most first-hand knowledge isn’t what most of us would think of as original findings in any but the most formal sense. I can tell you where Pelham Parkway is and the location of rocks on it, but it’s not as if I were its discoverer.

  41. What we complain about are the Wikipedians’ assertion that it can do no wrong.

    I’m not a wikipedian, and agree there’s bias and errors – and ‘authoritative’ seems like a strawman.

    But to my mind, most of the complaints against wikipedia – as those in the linked article – are like complaining that the Model T could not go as fast not haul as much stuff as a train. Well, yes. But it misidentifies the purpose and usefulness of the new tool. And if you use the new tool incorrectly, of course you’re going to get garbage results.

  42. The orthodox view (to which I also subscribe) is that nothing can be be ‘good enough’ to actually crowd out ‘better’ competition. There may be switchover costs that would require competition to be a discrete minimum level higher than the established brand.

    Yes, but that can produce a very high “hump”! It has been my experience in human organiz’ns in particular that the existence of a mediocre organiz’n, or of a mediocre functionary in position in an organiz’n, often prevents a better one from being established for at least a very long time. The information costs of reorganizing are great enough that the poor organiz’n sucks in resources faster than they can pile up to the threshold needed to establish a better one or put someone better in place.

    But everything eventually will either get better or be gotten rid of.

    But “eventually” can be a very long time.

    Plus, for this specific example aren’t there several more focused wiki’s out there (and not sponsored by the wiki foundation)?

    Yes, and they’re usually very good because the contributors often have 1st hand knowledge. But they’re not an encyclopedia. You have to be referred there first before you know it exists, and searches may not be efficient ways to find them.

    Say, what ever happened to Citizendia?

  43. Wikipedia is where information goes to die. Read Jason Scott’s criticism of Wikipedia if you want to know why.

  44. BTW, the Libertarian Party (US) is an example of an organization that continues to suck in resources because it’s there, and prevents their more productive redeployment.

  45. You mean to say, articles drafted by committee lack personality and style? Stop the frickin’ presses.

  46. Ok, Robert made has a pretty good argument illustrating Brandybuck’s point.

  47. Robert. Look here.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Light_switch

    It’s not exhaustively sourced. And yet, if you look at the discussion page, nobody is threatening to delete just because the minutiae aren’t sourced.

  48. Here’s Wikipedia for ya. They have an article on there about [[Wikimedia Foundation]]. In the Employees section, they tell the story of former multi-count felon COO, Carolyn Doran. The article said she was in jail at the Middle River facility in Virginia. This was May 2008. I called the jail and confirmed that Doran had been released in December 2007. So, I corrected the article in Wikipedia, giving the jail’s switchboard number in my edit summary. My corrective edit was almost immediately reverted, and my account was quickly “indefinitely blocked” from ever editing Wikipedia again. Because I disclosed “personal” information. Only after I complained about it on WikipediaReview.com was the article fixed — not even as elegantly as I had fixed it. Plus, I remained blocked.

    You cannot tell me that the juvenile “creative anachronists” running Wikipedia are doing the world a service. Sorry. They’re running a gigantic power-trip and revenge game online. It’s the D&D of the 21st century. Twerps.

  49. ***ERIC IS A FAG***

  50. I came to the same realization once – Wikipedia’s problem isn’t inaccuracy, but the horrible style its articles are often written in. Good writing gives you more and better information in fewer words. Bad writing is unclear and wasteful – and dull. Does it matter? To me it depends on whether I’m trying to learn, or just want to gather trivia. If I want to check something I remember about a historical event, I go to Wikipedia. If I want to learn how and why it happened, I go (if possible) to Britannica or some other learning tool.

  51. Wikipedia is the “good enough” that will keep “good” online community encyclopedias from being created.

    This is where I disagree with you, although I’d be happy to be wrong. Yea, despite the gushing of fanboys, nothing, not even Wikipedia is perfect. However, I have been impressed enough by it to consider it an exemplary compendium. I skimmed Jason Scott’s
    criticisms, and while I consider them fair, do not significantly reduce my enthusiasm for the Wikipedia.

  52. I wonder if anyone else sees a tad bit of irony in a post calling out Wikipedia for uninspiring prose with a headline that misuses “declaim”, in the apparent belief that this means “denounce”, rather than “recite”?
    At least when I see infelicitous prose on Wikipedia, I can just fix it.
    See also: pot, kettle; Caesar’s wife; mote in the eye; casting the first stone, etc.

  53. Don’t trust anyone over 30, don’t trust anyone under 30. You have got to be the most pig-headed generation that ever existed. Get over yourselves.


  54. At least when I see infelicitous prose on Wikipedia, I can just fix it.

    Until it gets deleted by an admin who’s mistaken himself for God.

    Don’t trust anyone over 30, don’t trust anyone under 30. You have got to be the most pig-headed generation that ever existed. Get over yourselves.

    Says the boomer.

  55. buford puser –

    Since most of the Hit & Run titles are ironic reflections of the article’s subject matter, I’m willing to give the benefit of the doubt and assume that the editor knows the definition of “declaim” and was making a jab at the plebeian prose and its concomitant word misuse that is common on Wikipedia.

    I skimmed Jason Scott’s
    criticisms, and while I consider them fair, do not significantly reduce my enthusiasm for the Wikipedia.

    That was about my reaction. I don’t go to Wikipedia to take cues on how to write prose, and for the purposes that invite my use of it, most of the criticisms are at best tangentially relevant.

  56. Wikipedia BORING!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Wikipedia is definitly not perfect I mean it would be better if if the writing said it like the other sites with all of those kind of definitions like Collier’s encyclopedia. Wikipedia is not accurate, so most schools have a rule that yopu are not aloud to use Wikipedia as a source.

  57. I have only edited a Wiki entry once and that was to note that a linked site would not open in Firefox.

    I have no quarrel with Wikipedia except that it is sometimes incorrect on some details. But they make an effort to note such things–except that I noticed in the lung cancer entry Wikipedia cites the bogus EPA study about second hand smoke and makes the claim that second hand smoke is worse than smoking. But everybody knows that is true anyway, essentially proving that if you repeat something often enough it takes on an aura of truth.

  58. Oh, and about stupefying the younger generation?

    Mark Bauerlein’s generation, the public school internees of the glorious 1970’s, was the most stupefied generation of the twentieth century. So WTF is he talking about?

    Like an alky hitting rock bottom, public education passed out in the toilet stall in a pool of its own vomit about the end of the ME decade. Slowly, ever so slowly, the recovery began and today, even in California, kids are light years ahead of their 1970’s brethren. Even if they can’t find Iraq on a map or their butt with both hands.

  59. Really? The orthodox view … is that nothing can be be ‘good enough’ to actually crowd out ‘better’ competition.

    Windows. VHS. GCC.

  60. As others have pointed out above, I’ll skin my left arm to avoid people who use the word “discourse.” People who talk like that are telling you something: 1. They are employed by a university in some role that likely has no value whatsoever to society, or 2. They are 20 and insecure, and think nobody will know how little they know if they use complicated terms to describe the simplest things.

    I love Wikipedia. I use it as a quick reference — to check something I think I know but am a little foggy on, to get a quick take on something I don’t know, or to see whether I want to read further on a topic. There isn’t a rule that I know of that if you use Wikipedia, you’re probibited from reading actual books and articles on a topic. In fact, Wikipedia might be what sends you to those books and articles, imagine that.

  61. I wonder if anyone else sees a tad bit of irony in a post calling out Wikipedia for uninspiring prose with a headline that misuses “declaim”, in the apparent belief that this means “denounce”, rather than “recite”?

    declaim
    verb
    1. recite in elocution
    2. speak against in an impassioned manner
    (emphasis added)

  62. The point isn’t that Wikipedia style is bad. It’s that teens consult it so much that they come to think that they should write in that style in all their schoolwork. Over the years, they don’t just take in the information. They assimilate the idiom, too. Intellectual discourse (horrid word!) to them is properly flat and colorless. So they save all the imagination for the puerile banter at MySpace.

  63. So they save all the imagination for the puerile banter at MySpace.

    Condescend much?

    No doubt, much of the banter at Myspace is “puerile”, but um, most ordinary conversation is. However, many people develop an effective form of informal writing and may even find a way to reconcile that with MLA format.

  64. Have you ever taught a class of freshmen, Art?

  65. No, as evidenced by the Light Switch entry and many others, editors won’t uniformly delete unsourced material at Wikipedia — there ain’t nuthin’ uniform there, but of course it can’t help but be nonuniform — but when an article becomes featured it’s like OMG, we can’t have even temporarily an entire unsourced section in an entry that’s otherwise meticulously sourced (but not necessarily accurate). But the sin of omission becomes grave in that case.

    There are times when sources attributed must be suspect. From the Zapp Branigan (“Futurama” character) entry they take out my addition that the character was named for Bash Brannigan, as any fool can plainly infer who’s familiar with both characters. However, because an authoritative source (Max Groening or someone associated) says otherwise, they’ll take that out as speculative, even though people should understand Groening’s sense of irony and the fact that tributes like that are usually done with a wink, especially since copyrights and trademarks are involved.

    Bash Brannigan was the cartoon character from the movie “How To Murder Your Wife”, and who briefly had a quasi-independent existence via promotional material. There ain’t no way in hell Zapp, who shares Bash’s characteristics, wasn’t named for him. (It’s just a matter of subbing one cartoon word, “zap”, for another, “bash”. And I don’t mean the Unix shell.) I just can’t prove it, but why shouldn’t a reader of the Zapp Branigan entry in Wikipedia have that brought to hir att’n so s/he can at least decide on hir own? Word it as “may be” or “alleged to be” if you must, but don’t just erase it.

    And I’ve taught freshmen, FWIW.

  66. “Moby-Dick” is hyphenated? Not two words?

    It’s hyphenated in the title. Not hyphenated in the actual text of the novel. Who knows why. It’s a very strange book.

  67. If I understand the article and comments correctly, writing by comittee damps style and flow.

  68. Have you ever taught a class of freshmen, Art?

    No, but I swear I’ve previously heard the theme that every successive generation is impossible to relate to. I’m not naive enough to think that teaching is easy, but other than the occasional insertion of l337 into ordinary conversation, I don’t see how today’s 18-year-olds are drastically different from the kids in “The Breakfast Club”.

  69. 2 in the goo:
    Not sure what source you’re citing here, but the second definition (“2. speak against in an impassioned manner”) you give is unknown to the OED & American Heritage Dictionary.
    OED does mention the usage “declaim against”, which would be redundant if declaim meant what you (& perhaps the headline writer (if Elemenope isn’t onto something)) think it does.

  70. Intellectual discourse (horrid word!) to them is properly flat and colorless.

    I suppose my only real objection to the title of the book is the inclusion of the word “stupefies”. By my reckoning, youth these days often lack the patience to read a book such as Moby Dick. Blame it on ADHD or whatever, but I think it’s a little more complicated than that. To me, most of the stimulus for “intellectual discourse” concerns the frontiers of physics and technology. Yea, art major though I may have been, a little study of electronics and quantum physics led to the greatest shift in my perception of the modern world.
    “Moby Dick” is definitely a classic, but “The Simpsons” and P.K. Dick speak more directly to a generation that is literally surrounded by microprocessors and mass media.
    So, instead of condemning the way the younger generation apprehends and interacts with their environment, perhaps the author should consider some sources of possible “good” that could come from the preponderance of new methods of interpersonal communication.

  71. No kidding. Anything created by committee is bound to be hammered into blandness.
    “The dumbest generation”? Nice. The inevitable result when your parents are the MTV generation.
    Remember them?

  72. Remember them?

    Yeah. Bauerlein might as well just say, “Now the truth about de-evolution can be told.”

  73. Bauerlein, if you don’t like how it looks now, then change it to how it looks now. You have no reason to bitch if the ability to effect change is staring in your face

  74. Now I’ve read Jason Scott’s criticism, and agree. I’m one of those content generators who tend to run into procedural fetishists. It’s just not worth the trouble to produce major material in Wikipedia, because even though you know what you’re doing, they don’t know that you know what you’re doing, and hence you earn no trust. About the best you can do is produce material elsewhere, possibly in one of the good specialized wikis, and hope you can convince someone to make a prominent link to it from a Wikipedia entry.

  75. “Finally, a Good Reason to Declaim Wikipedia”

    As if there weren’t enough already?

  76. I agree Lisa, Wikipedia is more likely Crowdpedia; normals who wish to play academics. Terrible result ensues.

  77. I’ve been so busy I actually missed this blog post. Moby Dick is the one Wikipedia entry in which I saw something snuck in, saved the text, and lo and behold it was gone the next day. Here ’tis:
    “The following is an extract from. The sperm whale busts a load that is 355 pounds. Melville’s Moby-Dick, in which he expatiates about the naming and common lore surrounding the Sperm Whale:”

  78. How about some numbers on this cohort:

    55 percent of high school students log less than 1 hour a week of “Reading/studying for class.”

    They log 9 hours a week social networking.

    Every time the NAEP history exam is administered, more than half of high school seniors score “Below basic” (call it an “F”).

    Only 6 percent of college teachers say entering students are “very well prepared in writing” (so much for all the benefits of texting)

    In 2004, 20 percent of freshmen ended up in remedial courses in reading, 23 percent in remedial writing.

    From 1984 to 2004, the number of high school seniors who said they “never or hardly ever” read for fun more than doubled (9 percent to 19 percent).

    According to Pew Research, only 39 percent of 18-29-year-olds “enjoy reading a lot,” far less than the overal average of 53 percent.

    In 1992, 59 percent of 18-24-year-olds read a book in the previous years’ time on their own. In 2002, the number sank to 50 percent.

  79. By the way, asdf, I’ve started a freshman education program at Emory that aims to immerse students in important traditions, texts, and ideas in American history, including libertarian ones.

  80. Poor Moby Dick.

    But if you’re interested in a good interview with Mark Bauerlein, hit this link:

    http://tinyurl.com/5u98fy

  81. With many new announcement about the wizard of oz movies in the news, you might want to consider starting to obtain Wizard of Oz book series either as collectible or investment at RareOzBooks.com.

  82. But if you’re interested in a good interview with Mark Bauerlein, hit this link:

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