I don’t think college students and professors have a “moral obligation” to disseminate knowledge via editing Wikipedia as Professor Jemielniak suggests, but the rest of his argument makes sense. Wikipedia is a powerful tool that can only be made better if more and more people use it and edit it.

Dariusz Jemielniak writes:

Wikipedia, a Professor’s Best Friend

Michael Gorman, a former president of the American Library Association, wrote some years ago that “a professor who encourages the use of Wikipedia is the intellectual equivalent of a dietitian who recommends a steady diet of Big Macs with everything.” If that is true, I must be an intellectual fast-food vendor.

I am a professor who not only recommends that my students use Wikipedia but also encourages them to edit and develop it. However, I am in the clear minority in academia. Most professors treat Wikipedia with suspicion and contempt, if not open hatred.

Some of my colleagues’ negative feelings may be explained by the natural conservatism of academic circles or by their simply not understanding how Wikipedia works. Admittedly, many of their doubts are justified. Even though as early as 2005, Wikipedia was recognized as not having significantly more errors than the Encyclopaedia Britannica, and although since then Wikipedia has significantly grown and improved, every now and then a spectacular blunder or an academic study shows that it is still far from perfect.

However, the real reasons for the general dislike of Wikipedia among scholars reach deeper. For one, academics used to have the monopoly on knowledge production. Now a bunch of digital Maoists create and manage knowledge without any remuneration or even asking for obvious credit. There has to be at least a little aversion to a project that is so effective in providing free what academics are paid to provide.