Wikipedia:Don't "teach the controversy"
This is an essay.
It contains the advice or opinions of one or more Wikipedia contributors. This page is not an encyclopedia article, nor is it one of Wikipedia's policies or guidelines, as it has not been thoroughly vetted by the community. Some essays represent widespread norms; others only represent minority viewpoints.
|This page in a nutshell: That phrase doesn't mean what you think it means.|
Well-meaning Wikipedians, fully aware of our core content policies and our guideline about fringe theories and covering them only with due weight, sometimes innocently suggest that we "teach the controversy" when presented with a real-world conflict in reliable sources.
"Teach the controversy" is not a general statement to apply to remaining neutral about a subject of social or research conflict. It's the catchphrase of a specific group of anti-evolution lobbyists, the Discovery Institute, to promote false balance by injecting creationism into the curricula of American public schools.
Even if it weren't a misappropriated slogan of religious pseudo-science, the idea is off-base anyway, for multiple reasons.
Instead, neutrally document the conflictEdit
Wikipedia does, indeed, have a duty to accurately reflect what the reliable sources are telling us, including when real-life experts are in sharp disagreement. This is not Wikipedia "teaching" anything – Wikipedia is not a textbook, guide, tutorial, handbook, or how-to of any kind.
Nor is every such conflict in the sourcing a "controversy"; the assumption that there is one is considered original research. Often it's simply a factor of having looked at only two sources, one of them more current or more authoritative than the other.
If there is in fact a genuine controversy in the field in question, which we might write about as a controversy, sources from and about that field will tell us that this is the case. If they do not, then simply note the conflict ("According to.... However, according to...."), and bring it up on the article's talk page. Chances are, some other editors know where to get more information, and a consensus discussion can determine the weight that particular sources should be afforded. If there's an accuracy dispute between scholars, it is described by Wikipedia without taking part in the dispute, or manufacturing a controversy.
- False equivalence
- Wikipedia:Verifiability – Policy: our general sourcing rules.
- Wikipedia:Neutral point of view – Policy: on how to do that sourcing without bias and without using Wikipedia to push some third party's viewpoint.
- Wikipedia:No original research – Policy: you are not entitled to your own facts, nor to use WP to publish your own ideas.
- Wikipedia:What Wikipedia is not – Policy: a non-exhaustive lists of things Wikipedia cannot be abused for, including advocacy, pedagogical material, or "sport debate".
- Wikipedia:Describing points of view – Policy supplement: how to accurately cover a viewpoint without mis-writing our material to side with it.
- Wikipedia:Manual of Style/Words to watch – Guideline: some other terms and phrases to be careful with.
- Wikipedia:Avoid thread mode – Essay
- Wikipedia:Controversial articles § Describe the controversy – Essay: details on how to do this properly.
- Wikipedia:Controversy – Essay: controversial articles, by their very nature, require far greater care to achieve a neutral point of view;
- Wikipedia:Criticism – Essay: covers "Controversy" sections and related matters.
- Wikipedia:Emerson – Essay: another phrase often misused (and misquoted, too) on Wikipedia: "A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds".
- Wikipedia:Verifiability, not truth § "But I know the truth!" – Essay: also touches on reporting on controversy without joining it.