Thursday, February 22, 2007

every f%#$ing thing is not censorship

Here's an interesting piece in the New York Times. Basically, students at Middlebury College have been told they can no longer cite Wikipedia as a source in History papers. For some reason this has created a big furor.

Apparently this article has been making the rounds, and a lot of campuses are starting to talk seriously about the issue. As usual, the New York Times has painted the issue in broad black and white strokes along the lines of: "Some professors are so old school they want to ban laptops altogether, and others so hip they have robots for TAs."

But jokes aside, it does seem as if a lot of students are very vociferously against any such policy. The article cites one writer in the Middlebury Campus in particular who says that the ban heralds "the beginnings of censorship."

Of course, as enlightened semi-divine beings, we all have a problem with this on a very visceral level. We like to say things like: "Censorship and academia are mutually exclusive," "Censorship is modern fascism," and other similarly wordy rhetoric that doesn't actually mean shit.

How is it censorship for a professor to say that a student can't cite bloody Wikipedia as a source in an academic paper? If you want to cite lyrics from Smash Mouth's "Can't Get Enough of You Baby" in an Economics paper about supply shortages, and your professor says you can't, is that censorship too?

No matter how much we may hate to admit it, an academic environment is actually pretty regulated. If it weren't, we wouldn't learn anything. Everything doesn't have to be free all the time. Talking about free speech just for the hell of it only detracts from the real (and incredibly important) argument for freedom of speech.

Of course, if you do want free expression, then everyone should have the right to exercise it. So how's this? You are free to cite Wikipedia to your heart's content... and your professor is free to flunk your ass out of school.

3 comments:

omar said...

wow - craziness. Didn't think it was getting so much airtime.

Its also not always correct. I've heard people complain about the bias in articles as well

Ahsan said...

"If you want to cite lyrics from Smash Mouth's "Can't Get Enough of You Baby" in an Economics paper about supply shortages, and your professor says you can't, is that censorship too?" not often i laugh out loud while reading a blog, but have to say, that line did it for me.

billu said...

Why thank you Ahsan. We aim to please.