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Middlebury, the Media, and the Future of Social Learning

However, even that consistency is not shared by all. Some in the department and some outside it hold opposing views and staged an open forum on the topic, inviting opposing views, and analyzing new tools in this digital age. I wasn?t there but I am certain someone must have talked about the Wikipedia as a very different new form of collaborative, communal, open-source, contributory learning. If anyone had said, even five years ago, that the richest and most global and inter-cultural reference work the world has ever seen would have been compiled by a self-selecting and organizing community of volunteers for the purpose of sharing knowledge, we would have laughed at them. Sure. Right. Like people spend their time writing for free, just so others can be better informed. Well, that?s Wikipedia.

As I said in my letter to President Liebowitz, whether we cite Wikipedia as a source in History papers is one matter. But we should not (and Middlebury did not) ban it. We need to celebrate this lifelong joy in learning and in communal sharing. More important, we must fight hard to keep this incredible resource because there are many out there who would limit the internet, who want to provide far greater restrictions and privatize more and more of its virtual terrain. If they are successful, they will be the ones (not Middlebury College) who are banning Wikipedia and other invaluable resources of our era.

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