Jona Lendering posted a reply on his blog to a recent post on mine, about teaching students to use online sources discerningly. His conclusion is stated bluntly at the end of the post:
To sum up: at this moment there is no good reason why students should use the internet. Let’s face it: the internet has failed.
I strongly disagree, both on principle and in practice.
On principle, I think that there is reliable information available online, if one knows where to look and how to sift the wheat from the chaff. Even just limiting oneself to Google Books, there are lots of scholarly books available with substantial previews. There are articles on faculty web pages. And so even without the even better selection one may have if one gets access to JSTOR or NetLibrary through a public or university library, there are good things out there. And if there weren’t, then we scholars would have to be ashamed of ourselves because it is not up to others to get reliable information to the public. That is our job.
(Roger Pearse has also chimed in, and I understand him to agree with Jona primarily because of the travesty that most scholarly perspectives are locked behind paywalls, unaccessible to the general public. See too Tracy Mitrano’s piece in Inside Higher Ed about plagiarism before the internet.)