The UK Education Secretary has a love hate relationship with the open internet: He loves Wikipedia, but hates YouTube.
Speaking at the annual conference of the National Association of Schoolteachers and Union of Women Teachers (NASWUT) in Belfast last week, Alan Johnson extolled the Internet as “an incredible force for good in education” for teachers and pupils, singling out Wikipedia for praise, as reported by The Guardian.
Chris Keates, the general secretary of the NASWUT itself, however, rebuked the UK government recommendation to students to use Wikipedia in their studies. Keates said the union had been the victim of “scurrilous claims” on Wikipedia.
Nevertheless, Secretary Johnson asserted:
Wikipedia enables anybody to access information which was once the preserve of those who could afford the subscription to Encyclopedia Britannica and were prepared to navigate its maze of indexes and content pages. Modern technology enables a whole range of new educational tools to be used by pupils, teachers and schools.
Johnson is not keen on “modern technology” of the YouTube variety, however, he decried YouTube for hosting a video of a teacher having his trousers pulled down in class, and said such humiliating stunts were driving people from the profession, as reported by The Watford Observer:
Without the online approval which appeals to the innate insecurities of the bully, such sinister activities would have much less attraction.
Johnson rallied that Google’s YouTube is a “big company” with a “social responsibility and moral obligation to act.”
Johnson is apparently not concerned about Wikipedia “acting” on its “integrity,” Larry Sanger, Wikipedia’s co-founder and now competitor as founder of Citizendium.org, riposted:
I’m afraid that M.r Johnson does not realise the many problems afflicting Wikipedia, from serious management problems, to an often dysfunctional community, to frequently unreliable content, and to a whole series of scandals. While Wikipedia is still quite useful and an amazing phenomenon, I have come to the view that it is also broken beyond repair, as reported by Times Online.
The UK government also has Wikipedia detractors. Nick Gibb, a spokesman for the Tory schools:
A huge amount of the current curriculum, particularly in history, is devoted to teaching children to be discerning when it comes to information on the internet. It appears the Secretary of State is not quite as modern as he needs to be in this information age.
Sanger hopes his new Citizendium will serve as the necessary discerning antidote to his former hope, Wikipedia, because the “world needs a better free encyclopedia.”