[Net-Gold] In Defense of Wikipedia
Date: Mon, 31 Aug 2009 16:43:01 -0700
From: Richard Hake <rrhake@...>
Subject: [Net-Gold] In Defense of Wikipedia
ABSTRACT: In my post "Mathematics Learning in Early Childhood" [Hake
(2009)] regarding "Mathematics Learning in Early Childhood: Paths
Toward Excellence and Equity" [Cross et al. (2009)], I quoted from
Wikipedia's entry <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Constance_Kamii> on
Constance Kamii. Michael Paul Goldenberg (MPG) (2009) objected,
opining that the Wikipedia quote is "clearly written by someone with
a Mathematically-Correct accent. . . . you'd think [Hake would] be
very wary of citing obvious opinion pieces as if they were serious
Not to question the authority of a post that contains NO!!!!
footnotes, but I disagree with MPG that the quote I gave from
Wikipedia is "an obvious opinion piece" that's "clearly written by
someone with a Mathematically-Correct accent." But if MPG is correct
in thinking that the Wikipedia entry on Kamii is deficient, then
Kamii, or one of her close associates, or even MPG, can edit the
entry so as to correct any errors.
In my post "Mathematics Learning in Early Childhood" [Hake (2009)]
regarding "Mathematics Learning in Early Childhood: Paths Toward
Excellence and Equity" [Cross et al. (2009)], I quoted from a
Wikipedia's entry <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Constance_Kamii> on
Constance Kamii. Michael Paul Goldenberg (2009) responded:
"Richard Hake's post on the above subject included several citations
from Wikipedia about Constance Kamii. Not to question the authority
of a post that contains FOOTNOTES!!!!, but the Wikipedia article
about Kamii is clearly written by someone with a
Mathematically-Correct accent . . . . . . quoting that website as a
source on anything even vaguely politically or socially controversial
is something to be eschewed by serious scholars. That Professor Hake
doesn't seem to realize this is, well, disappointing, coming as it
does from someone who has been so critical of others for not
following his personal rules for Internet scholarship. You'd think
he'd be very wary of citing obvious opinion pieces as if they were
serious scholarship. . . . . . . ."
Not to question the authority of a post that contains NO (ZERO, "0")
FOOTNOTES!!!!!, but I disagree with Michael Paul Goldenberg (MPG)
that the quote I gave from the Wikipedia entry on Kamii is "an
obvious opinion piece" that's "clearly written by someone with a
Mathematically-Correct accent." On the contrary, I think the quote
gives a reasonably accurate account of some of Kamii's many
contributions to math education. As quoted in Hake (2009), according
to Wikipedia <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Constance_Kamii>
[bracketed by lines "WWWWWW. . . . . "]:
One of her most cited papers (Kamii, C., & Dominick, A. 1998)
proposed that the traditional methods of teaching one of the 3R's,
arithmetic was actually harmful to learning mathematics. This paper
was widely cited worldwide. These ideas influenced the NCTM standards
which would be funded by the United States National Science
Foundation to create several curricula cited as exemplary by the
Department of Education and widely adopted by local, state, and
federal education agencies by the 1990s and 2000s by consensus based
decision making. While the NCTM and many other groups composed of
educators and psychologists saw that Kamii's research resonated with
their own experiences with children, groups such as Mathematically
Correct, composed largely of practicing mathematicians with no
elementary classroom experience, were horrified that many of the
NCTM-inspired texts such as "Investigations in Number, Data, and
Space" omitted standard arithmetic methods.
The teaching of procedural knowledge, as the main purpose of
mathematics classes, was challenged by Kamii's research. Interviews
and assessments with students who had learned arithmetic as a set of
procedures demonstrated profound conceptual misunderstandings about
place value and number magnitude.
The influence of Kamii's research remains wide as parents across the
United States continue to grapple with mathematics curricula that ask
students and parents to construct their own mathematical concepts
rather than simply be taught the same methods that were taught to
I wonder if MPG or others might be willing to indicate the errors of
commission or omission in the above quote?
If, in fact, Goldenberg is right and the Wikipedia entry on Kamii is
deficient, then Kamii, or one of her close associates, or even MPG,
can edit the entry so as to correct any errors.
Those who dismiss Wikipedia entries as a mere "opinion pieces," may
not be aware that a study by Nature [Giles (2005)] indicated that
Wikipedia comes close to Britannica in terms of the accuracy of its
science entries. While it's true that Kamii's work may be
politically or socially controversial so is "evolution" - would MPG
dismiss <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Evolution> as a mere opinion
Nature's claim of comparable accuracy of scientific entries in
Britannica and Wikipedia was disputed by Britannica (2006), but
Nature's initial formal response [Nature 2006a), an editorial Nature
(2006b), and point-by-point rebuttal [Nature (2006c] suggest that
Nature's claim was correct.
For background information on Wikipedia see, e.g.:
a. the Wikipedia (2009) article on "Wikipedia";
b. the popular articles by Marshall Poe (2006) in the Atlantic and
Stacy Schiff (2006) in the New Yorker;
c. "Wikipedia: The Missing Manual" [Broughton (2008)]. Broughton
<http://www.oreillynet.com/pub/au/3087> "has been a registered
editor at Wikipedia since August 2005, with more than 15,000 edits by
the time he wrote this book."
d. Skeptic Daniel Loxton's (2009) "Fix Wikipedia: make the people's
encyclopedia a science-based resource." Loxton wrote: "Is it Worth
Paying Attention to Wikipedia? Yes, it absolutely is. This is a
shining opportunity for the skeptical movement. Wikipedia is among
the most important public sources for almost any scientific,
pseudoscientific, or paranormal topic. A Wikipedia article is almost
always the number one Google hit for that subject. Amazingly, any
grassroots skeptic . . . .[there are some exceptions as indicated by
Hafner (2006)]. . . .. can make responsible improvements to that
source at any time, easily and for free."
e. Physicist Michael Nielsen's (2008) appraisal: "Wikipedia is a
second example where scientists have missed an opportunity to
innovate online. Wikipedia has a vision statement to warm a
scientist's heart: 'Imagine a world in which every single human being
can freely share in the sum of all knowledge. That's our commitment.'
You might guess Wikipedia was started by scientists eager to collect
all of human knowledge into a single source. In fact, Wikipedia's
founder, Jimmy Wales, had a background in finance and as a web
developer for an 'erotic search engine', not in science. In the early
days few established scientists were involved. JUST AS FOR THE
SCIENTIFIC COMMENT SITES, TO CONTRIBUTE AROUSED SUSPICION FROM
COLLEAGUES THAT YOU WERE WASTING TIME THAT COULD BE SPENT WRITING
PAPERS AND GRANTS. [My CAPS.]. Some scientists will object that
contributing to Wikipedia isn't really science. And, of course, it's
not if you take a narrow view of what science is, if you've bought
into the current game, and take it for granted that science is only
about publishing in specialized scientific journals. But if you take
a broader view, if you believe science is about discovering how the
world works, and sharing that understanding with the rest of
humanity, then the lack of early scientific support for Wikipedia
looks like an opportunity lost. Nowadays, Wikipedia's success has to
some extent legitimized contribution within the scientific community.
BUT HOW STRANGE THAT THE MODERN DAY LIBRARY OF ALEXANDRIA HAD TO COME
FROM OUTSIDE ACADEMIA. [My CAPS.]"
Richard Hake, Emeritus Professor of Physics, Indiana University
24245 Hatteras Street, Woodland Hills, CA 91367
Honorary Member, Curmudgeon Lodge of Deventer, The Netherlands.
A paper that does not have references is like a child without an
escort walking at night in a big city it does not know: isolated,
lost, anything may happen to it. On the contrary, attacking a paper
heavy with footnotes means that the dissenter has to weaken each of
the other papers, or will at least be threatened with having to do
so, whereas attacking a naked paper means that the reader and the
author are of the same weight: face to face.
Bruno Latour (1987)
REFERENCES [Tiny URL's courtesy <http://tinyurl.com/create.php>.]
Brittanica. 2006. "Fatally Flawed - Refuting the recent study on
encyclopedic accuracy by the journal Nature," Response to Nature
(2005); online at
Broughton, J. 2008._ "Wikipedia: The Missing Manual," O'Reilly;
publisher's information at
Cross, C.T., T.A. Woods, & H. Schweingruber, eds. 2009. "Mathematics
Learning in Early Childhood: Paths Toward Excellence and Equity,"
Committee on Early Childhood Mathematics; National Academies Press;
online at <http://www.nap.edu/catalog.php?record_id=12519#toc>.
Giles, J. 2005. "Special Report - Internet encyclopaedias go head to
head - Wikipedia comes close to Britannica in terms of the accuracy
of its science entries, a Nature investigation finds. " Nature 438:
900-901, 15 December; online at
Goldenberg, M.P. 2009. "Re: Mathematics Learning in Early Childhood,"
Math-Teach post of 27 July 8:31 PM; online on the OPEN! Math-Teach
Hafner, K. 2006. "Gowing Wikipedia Refines Its 'Anyone Can Edit'
Policy," New York Times, 17 June; online at
Hake, R.R. 2009. "Mathematics Learning in Early Childhood," online on
the OPEN! AERA-L archives at <http://tinyurl.com/luayng>. Post of 27
Jul 2009 16:02:41 -0700 to AERA-L, Math-Teach, Net-Gold, & PhysLnrR.
Abstract only to AERA-A, AERA-B, AERA-C, AERA-J, AERA-K, ARN-L,
Biopi-L, BioLab (rejected), Chemed-L, EvalTalk, LearningSciences,
Math-Learn, NaturalMath, POD, PsychTeacher (rejected), RUME,
SClistserv, STLHE-L, TeachEdPsych, & TIPS.
Latour. B. 1987. "Science in Action - How to Follow Scientists and
Engineers Through Society," Harvard University Press, p. 33.
Publisher's information at
Loxton, D., 2009. "Fix Wikipedia: make the people's encyclopedia a
science-based resource," online at
Nature. 2006a. "Encyclopaedia Britannica and Nature: a response," 23
March; online at
Nature. 2006b. Editorial: "Britannica attacks," . . .and we
respond," Nature 440: 582 (30 March; online at
Nature. 2006c. point-by-point rebuttal to Brittannica (2006); online at
<http://www.nature.com/nature/britannica/eb_advert_response_final.pdf> (28 kB).
Nielsen, M. 2008. "The Future of Science: Building a Better
Collective Memory" APS News, 17(10). The full version appears on
Nielson's blog at <http://michaelnielsen.org/blog/?p=448>. Note the
responses and counter responses following Nielsen's essay.
Poe, M. 2006. "The Hive: Can thousands of Wikipedians be wrong? How
an attempt to build an online encyclopedia touched off history's
biggest experiment in collaborative knowledge," The Atlantic, online
Schiff, S. 2006. "Can Wikipedia conquer expertise? " New Yorker, 31
July; online at
Wikipedia. 2009. Article on "Wikipedia"
<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia>. See especially "The
Wikipedia Community" at