Wikipedia & Scouting/Guiding


          The accuracy of the information available on Wikipedia has been discussed and debated for several years. Recently, it was reported that a college student placed incorrect information on a Wikipedia page, which was subsequently reported in major newspapers as a fact. Not only are the articles on Wikipedia not subjected to a peer-review process, but Wikipedia eschews experts. According to its site: “Visitors do not need specialized qualifications to contribute. Wikipedia's intent is to have articles that cover existing knowledge, not create new knowledge (original research).”

          Over the past year I have attempted to correct some factual errors in a number of Wikipedia articles that discuss the history of Scouting (BSA). My editing of these articles were based on my research of primary source materials. My intent was to share the information I gathered with those who accessed Wikipedia. Unfortunately,  facts are not important to those who edit Wikipedia.

          After I made my contribution to the articles, I went on with my business. Several months later, I had occasion to access those articles, only to find that my additions were replaced with the same factual errors I had previously corrected. Subsequent attempts to provide the correct information were again deleted.

          Additional attempts were made at different times to correct the articles, but to no avail. A quick review will demonstrate that most of the material on Wikipedia that discusses the history of Scouting/Guiding are not documented, and when they are, many of the sources cited are not reputable.

          Personally, I have given up on the futility of correcting the errors I found on Wikipedia. I am not saying that all of the information on Wikipedia is inaccurate, only that material that some in the Scouting/Guiding community might find controversial, objectionable, or even obscure, are regularly purged from Wikipedia, or sanitized. The reason behind the deletion of my corrections is unknown.

          Today, most students and historians have access to scholarly publications through JSTOR, ProQuest, Project Muse, Questia, and other electronic databases/services available through public and university libraries. Internet users also have access to Google Books and WorldCat. With these resources and the bibliographies provided on this site, there is no need to rely on Wikipedia for research, especially when there are known factual errors on its pages.

          If students and researchers are interested in writing on the history of Scouting/Guiding, then please do not take a shortcut and rely on Wikipedia for your research. The hardest part in any  project is locating relevant primary and secondary material. This site has already done that for you! If you do use Wikipedia, please take the time to fact-check the information you copy. It may very well save you some embarrassment.

          Good luck!
 


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