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Sunday, December 18, 2005

Making sense of some of the news

The Boston Sunday Globe has an article on a new web site to enable kids and their families to swap toys that they no longer play with. Timely, especially with Christmas coming and new toys about to appear under the tree relegating the other toys to the back of the pile.

There also is a recap on wikipedia that recounts the recent issue around the erroneous posting of an article that connected the "legendary journalist John Seigenthaler" with both J F Kennedy and Robert Kennedy's assassinations. I recalled reading this in the news when it occurred. At the time, I had no idea who John Seigenthaler was. I still don't know much about him so I find it interesting that he is mentioned as a "legendary journalist". Hmm...

I don't follow how this is such a major issue. The wiki process did work. The article was found to be erroneous and corrected. Yes, it took sometime to do so (in this case about a month). But given the size of the wiki and the contents it holds, this is still pretty amazing.

There was also an article on how colleges are failing in the US. Derek Bok writes:
... organizations have become accustomed to this kind of competition. They have responded by becoming effective learning organizations -- that is, organizations that constantly assess their work to identify problems, look for new ways to overcome weaknesses, evaluate these innovations with care, and adopt the methods that work while discarding those that don't. Colleges urgently need to follow this example.
If colleges and the overall school system taught students to question data rather than accepting data as fact, we might be better off. We would look more skeptically at articles and consider the source, the credibility of the author, and the context of the facts presented. With a more open and questioning mind, we would be able create more web sites to enable solutions for simple problems (like toy swaps), and hesitate to accept something published as an absolute until it had been verified by a reputed source.

What do you think?

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