Friday, September 7, 2007

know your sources

In the wikipedia entry on the Geneva Bible, my students and I discovered this:

"It has been stated by some that the Geneva Bible was the Bible present at the signing of the U. S. Declaration of Independence and the U. S. Constitution, due to the fact that it was the Bible that the Puritans brought with them to America. However, the U. S. Library of Congress and the Independence National Historical Park both state that they do not know what version/translation of the Bible was present at these signings (Independence Hall in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania being the location of both of the signings)."
Seemingly harmless, but worth mentioning the subtleties underlying this text.
First, who "stated"? This is classic use of passive voice to mask the actor or generalize.
Secondly, why does it matter? The U. S. Library of Congress and the Independence National Historical Park certainly clarify that it may not matter, just in case anyone may be offended by the idea that this may be true.
Finally, this was a perfect opportunity to remind my students that information is manipulated for the writer's purpose. As growing writers, it's essential that they consider this in their own writing. As researchers and gatherers of information, it's essential to consider the writer's MOTIVE and ARGUMENT.
Once again, the classroom uses for Wikipedia are endless. This is a tool well worth using, and like any other-must be used with care and caution.

1 comment:

Susan Carter said...

What a great teaching moment. I love this!