Friday, January 11, 2013

Musing on Knowledge, Education and the Internet

"Oh, did you learn that on Google?"
"Miss Internet Search thinks she knows so much!"
"You shouldn't trust what you read on the internet."

Sound familiar? Maybe you've spouted off one of those 'gems' (if it's the second, congratulations on trolling, and you can kiss my ass right now). These are usually dropped by people who either don't have the facts to back up their argument, are wrong and starting to realize it, have no debate skills or honestly believe that the internet is written by 12 year-olds (which is only partly true).

Don't underestimate his knowledge base.
image by 

I hate when people say you can't learn anything on the internet. I don't mean that in a snarky or ironic way, either. There are entire textbooks in PDF and other forms you can read online. The kind you study in college. Along with full coursework if you look hard enough for it. In fact, you can take free college classes online or learn a new language for free.

The whole of the internet is not made up of Wikipedia, folks. Medical journals, scientific peer-reviewed studies, instructional courses from legitimate experts, non-editable encyclopedias, statistical records--the list goes on and they're all available.

Not the entirety of the internet
Yes, there are plenty of people who don't know how to use that information. There are people who quote things that actually mean the exact opposite of their intent. But just like any other group, not everyone falls into those categories.

I know this may shock you, but even those of us who use the internet to share pictures of funny cats, snarky ecards and pinterest porn can also use it to actually learn things. Further (gasp) teachers are great, but you can learn without one assigning you the homework.

Don't dismiss something just because it's on the internet. Don't assume that a degree = knowledge or that no degree = ignorance, either. I know more about breastfeeding than most doctors--from anatomy to practice and benefits. I know more about piercing than the average mall 'piercer.' There are people without kids who know more about them than I do and people with them that know less than I did before I had them.

And even without the internet--don't assume that the old lady who didn't finish high school, sitting next to you on the bench, doesn't know more about some obscure but useful subject than you even knew there was to know.

Let me leave you with some words of wisdom from "The Science Guy":