[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index][Subject Index][Author Index]


<<@lepomis.psych.upenn.edu:murphy!acmcr!vr@uunet.uu.net>> (Vicki Rosenzweig):

>I'm not aiming this specifically at Seth Tucker and Jim Carter--it's
>been on my mind for a couple of weeks. Basically, to what extent is
>it appropriate for people to be posting open-ended requests for
>information in order to do their schoolwork?
>If you all decide I'm just being crotchety, you can ignore me. But
>the following paragraph is _at least_ as relevant if you think we
>should be answering such questions.

No, Ma'am, I don't think you are being crotchety at all.  I've been
mulling over this message since I got it, debating how to reply, or
even to make an issue of it.  But I must agree, this kind of fishing
for someone to do the hard work simply isn't acceptable.  Any kind of
answer will provide at least a template for the report, if the not
entire thing.

But I think there is more here than meets the eye - much more, in
fact.  It would be wonderful if the list could dispense information
and advice for all, but I don't think it's going to be practical -
I think it could kill the list very easily.  How many students in
the world are doing reports on dinosaurs tonight?  Can we even think
of trying to be information resources for every high-school student
in the world?  This is just the camel's nose.  When we are getting
twenty or more of these a day, I suspect no one will stay on the list,
it will die.  That being the case, why should we confer what amounts
to an unfair advantage to the first ones to think of using this list
that way?  I have no easy answer, but this problem will have to be
addressed, and not just by us.

It is very easy to ask a bunch of professionals and knowledgable
amateurs - much easier than cracking a book - the information comes
pre-screened, and frequently in a form that can be dropped right
into a word processor with little a teacher could do to spot the
plaigerism.  While I doubt Seth himself had that in mind, the
possibility of it should give us pause.  Seth will not be the
least ethical person to ask questions like this.

At the very least, I don't think teachers should accept any cites
from net personalities - I'm sure Tom Holtz is a terrific reference,
and we tap him freely here, but it would be very easy for someone to
put his name on anything they threw into a report, whether Tom said
it or not.  How could they be checked?  Will teachers email Tom to
determine if he said something cited to him?  If even one teacher in
each school in the country spot-checked just one reference to him
once a semester, that will still be - what? - 5000 a year?  Does he
want to have to deal with that impact on his personal time?  And if
not, then what use is the cite?  It can't be checked, can't even be
repeated verbatum.  Can't even be guaranteed to _be_ Tom, for that
matter, even if the post was saved and added to a bibliography, since
he doesn't PGP-sign his messages, anyone could forge his name (this
may not be all that large a problem for us, I'm speaking in general).
Nor do I think it fair to hold him to a standard that implies his
every utterance on the net should be textbook reference quality and
professionally PGP-signed.  So I don't think it's practical.

If we want to be charitable to young cyber-pioneers, then I think I
would suggest it begin with the requirement that someone looking for
any information cite where they have looked already, and indicate
whether they are searching for supporting or countering arguments,
and whether the information is a simple report, or whether it is
defending a thesis - and to post the latter if so.  Replies should
probably be limited to reference cites.  Library research should
remain the primary tool of education.  But if we do this, we must
remember that sometime, sooner or later, we won't be _able_ to do
this, and we'll have to cut it off somehow, or give up our dinosaur
forum for lack of time and lack of opportunity to do anything else.
And given Al Gore's projected timetable for putting every high school
on the information superhighway, I don't think we're talking all that
much time.  Two years at the outside.

Larry Smith