Monday, January 19, 2009

Like this is going to happen

Normally A.C. Grayling makes a lot of sense and I enjoy reading his columns in New Scientist. Today's column is an exception: Universities should flag up which websites to trust.

Graying rightly points out that the internet is a mixed bag of mostly crap interspersed with the occasional website that makes sense at a level beyond kindergarten. His solution?
The lesson is that to make best use of the internet as an educational resource, its content has to be audited for reliability, and a system of classification introduced. Given that the internet is already the main resource for students, the need is urgent. I suggest that an international consortium of universities should set up panels to audit the worth of websites, endorsing those that are reliable. They should not censor, nor comment on matters of opinion - the price we pay for the internet's open democracy is the rubbish it contains. But they should authoritatively identify worthwhile sites, and warn of factual error when it occurs. Without such expert monitoring, the internet will increasingly be a problem rather than a boon, and limited in educational value.
Can you imagine a panel of Professors from different universities agreeing on which websites are reliable and accurate?

It might work for blogs. We all know which blogs to select, don't we?


  1. Good idea. I wonder which of you or John Hawks will be declared unreliable. How will students know whom to trust on the issue of genetic drift? One of you will have to go.

    I eagerly await the results of this simple and uncontroversial process.

  2. How many diciplines will be involved? The Biology department might like Abbie at erv but I doubt the English department would. And, speaking of English, if this is going to be an international consortium of universities, will points be taken off for spelling it "colour" or not?

  3. ...but the mucky truth is that 'reliable' sources of information are often incorrect too.

    Compare newspapers, compare TV channels, compare political advertising. Ask your significant other "does this colour suit me?"

    Far better to develop a cautious and inquiring mind, trained in logical argument and a deep understanding of statistics.

  4. Ah, Abbie can just tell claim it's Oklahoman Smithian Vernacular. That'll impress the linguists. It is a consistent grammar after all.