Why You Have to Be Careful With Wikipedia

You have to be careful what you read on Wikipedia. It’s a great resource in a lot of ways, if you know what you’re looking for. Not too long ago I found a Wikipedia entry on Edmund A. Walsh (seen here with Douglas MacArthur), who was the subject of my dissertation and my first book. Walsh did a lot of different things in his life. One of them was founding Georgetown’s School of Foreign Service, the first school of its kind in the country. Wikipedia tells us that “[h]is motivation for doing so came as a result of his experiences at the Versailled Conference of 1919, where he believed U.S. diplomats to have been inadequately trained.” Not only is this plain incorrect, but the article goes on to cite my book as a source! I know I should probably change this, but I like to leave it there to make a point with my students. Be careful with Wikipedia! It is, to quote the title of the British Cardinal John Heenan’s autobiography, Not the Whole Truth.

Catholics in the Movies: Pedro de Cordoba (1881-1950)
Catholics in Public Service: Senator Francis Kernan, New York (1816-1892)
All Saints Day Homily, St. Paul the Apostle, Manhattan, 1913
Anti-Catholic Cartoon of the Week
About Pat McNamara
  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/15095161921742904453 Paul

    Looks like someone fixed it.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12617476463347663364 Michelle

    In my field (science), Wikipedia is more likely to be reliable than a “traditional” encyclopedia; but I’m always reminding students that tracking things back to the original source is not a bad thing – this is another good example!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/17953214762289672139 Pat McNamara

    I also encourage them to go ad fontes!