When a state government owns up to its wrongdoings, the consequences can be severe. The process of uncovering the past is politically wrought, and the findings are often deliberately obscured. Nonetheless, documenting and distributing the findings of these commissions, often through truth commissions, is an essential part of a government holding itself accountable for human rights abuses and other malfeasance.
David Webster’s Memory, truth and reconciliation in the developing world course at Bishop University focuses on bringing those findings to Wikipedia. In that course, student editors gather reports and write an article about a specific truth commission’s findings.
Webster’s students are making an incredible difference in this area. The course is responsible for more than 20% of the articles on Wikipedia’s list of truth and reconciliation commissions.
It’s an example that fuses human rights, an area many students are passionate about, with the incentive of raising public awareness through Wikipedia. The articles written for this class have been seen 1.83 million times. That’s a stunning impact on the awareness of human rights issues.
But through our online trainings and other tools, students are careful to let their passions guide their interest, but not their writing. Students emphasize a careful presentation and balance of views, carefully considering Wikipedia’s policies about equal weight to all sources. Students are encouraged to write for Wikipedia in a way that documents the discussion of these panels, not weigh in on it. That’s an essential skill that encourages students to carefully assess their sources, their writing, and their own positions.
We’re very proud of these contributions to Wikipedia, and the excellent work carried out by these students!
Do you have an interest in a similar project for your own course? Wiki Ed can help by providing resources and guidance to make sure students understand the value of balanced, encyclopedic writing. Our staff can provide trainings for students that helps them stay on the right side of Wikipedia’s policies. Many instructors use this assignment as a stepping stone to a broader, more reflective position or policy paper. That way, students are motivated by sharing their knowledge of history to raise awareness.
We’d love to hear your ideas. Reach out to us to start a conversation: firstname.lastname@example.org.