Wikipedia wants to be legitimate so badly I can almost taste it. They're even abandoning some of their long-held, crowd-sourcing ideals with review policies. And yet, here we are, starting another year of school, with countless syllabi and rubrics going out to students prohibiting the use or citation of Wikipedia.
Wikipedia is so bloody useful! Is it as authoritative as a peer-reviewed journal or the Encyclopedia Britannica? Probably not. However, when was the last time you sat down with you searched the Annals of Microbiology for a high school research paper? Guess what? There are a lot of well-researched articles on microbiology right in Wikipedia with links to just such peer reviewed journal articles for students to research further.
A quick glance at this month's Annals of Microbiology brought me to an interesting article: "Effects of carbon and nitrogen sources on sexual reproduction of five strains from the ascomycete Orbilia". It's a good thing I had Wikipedia so I could find out what Orbilia were (along with a picture, their full classification, and a link to the Index Fungorum, which I didn't even know existed).
I want Wikipedia to be legitimate, too. I'd be the first to reject a paper whose only source was Wikipedia, but to cut students off from this incredible wealth of information is senseless. The links, resources, multimedia, and references alone make it far more useful on a regular basis than Britannica could ever hope to be. It's also free, making it 100% accessible to our students, as long as they have a Web browser.
Let's spend our time teaching our kids to be critical readers and follow all of those links in Wikipedia, rather than teaching them that Wikipedia isn't a legitimate source of information.