Improving U.S. public policy articles

Access to neutral, fact-based information about the laws and policies that affect people’s lives is important for a functioning society. Wikipedia — a neutral source of information without a paywall — is a natural place for Americans to turn to to learn about U.S. public policy that affects their lives. In the spring 2021 term, many student editors from Wiki Education’s Wikipedia Student Program improved these topics.

Education policy

When it comes to improving Wikipedia articles, people gravitate toward improving topics that affect their lives, so it isn’t very surprising that many student editors chose to work on articles related to education policy. A great example of this is the Rice University student student who created a new article on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on education in the United States, including federal, state, and local governments’ responses. For students who spent the term living through the effects of the pandemic, this topic would have been particular relevant to their daily lives.

But that wasn’t the only article related to education students improved. Students at the University of California at Berkeley added information about policies enacted to improve literacy in the United States to that article. Another student from the same class added information about college access programs to the educational interventions for first-generation students article.

Two different students in different universities worked on improving the education reform article. Students from the University of New Orleans added information about U.S. education policies, among other improvements. And students from UC Berkeley added information about how policies have led to education inequalities for students of color.

Equitable policy

Equity is a common theme among other improvements students made, too. Chapman University students taking the course “Disability, Policy and the Law” improved several articles related to disability policy, including Assistive Technology ActsVoting Accessibility for the Elderly and Handicapped Act, and district court cases Mills v. Board of Education of District of Columbia and National Federation of the Blind v. Target Corporation.

Another UC Berkeley student added healthcare policy information to the article on Native Americans and reservation inequality. Students from Brigham Young University students created the article on Native Americans in United States elections. BYU students also created a new article detailing the Japanese internment at Ellis Island during World War II.

Historical policies

The internment article isn’t the only improvements students made to historical policy-related articles. Another BYU student significantly expanded the article that had languished as a stub for many years on the 1953 Mutual Defense Treaty Between the United States and Republic of Korea.

In even older history, another student added information on state and federal policy to the Reconstruction in Alabama article. And a University of Oklahoma student expanded the article on the Bankruptcy Act of 1800, the first federal legislation concerning bankruptcy.

Other students worked on improving articles related to Supreme Court cases. A UC Berkeley student added information about how the decision Gideon v. Wainright, which addressed defendants’ right to a lawyer, expanded to include that right in civil cases as well. And a BYU student expanded the article on Powers v. Ohio, which addressed preemptory challenges in jury selection based on race.

Contemporary policies

And some students talked more contemporary issues. A University of Central Florida student added information about Medicaid expansion to the Affordable Care Act article.

A Kent State University student added information about U.S. tax policy to the article on progressive tax. And a UC Berkeley student added information on policies to address the digital divide in the United States.

A Texas A&M student significantly overhauled the article on climate change in Texas, adding in information about local governments’ climate action plans among other details.

Both gerrymandering and the status of unincorporated territories impact the way in which many U.S. citizens are denied full representation in Congress. By adding information about these topics to the politics of the United States article, a Rice University student improved Wikipedia’s coverage of this important policy issue.

All of this work helps improve the availability of information for Americans about the laws and policies influencing their lives. And as policy makers, journalists, and others seek background information as they do their jobs, Wikipedia becomes a source for them. The more accurate information we have on Wikipedia in this area, the better.

Image credit: Ralf Roletschek (talk) – Infos über Fahrräder auf Wikis in der Ausbildung, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons


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