Indoctrinating Technology FUD In Middle School: Uneducated Teacher Confiscates Linux Discs Because “No Software is Free”

(Above: What some call a sideshow, students call “my computer”)

The blog of the HeliOS Project, a great grassroots operation that turns donated computers into Linux-fueled machines for kids, has posted an astonishing story about a very confused Middle School teacher who, upon discovering one of her students demonstrating Linux on his laptop while handing out CDs of the distribution, confiscated the discs, giving the following reason an email to the HeliOS team:

…observed one of my students with a group of other children gathered around his laptop. Upon looking at his computer, I saw he was giving a demonstration of some sort. The student was showing the ability of the laptop and handing out Linux disks. After confiscating the disks I called a confrence with the student and that is how I came to discover you and your organization. Mr. Starks, I am sure you strongly believe in what you are doing but I cannot either support your efforts or allow them to happen in my classroom. At this point, I am not sure what you are doing is legal. No software is free and spreading that misconception is harmful. These children look up to adults for guidance and discipline. I will research this as time allows and I want to assure you, if you are doing anything illegal, I will pursue charges as the law allows. Mr. Starks, I along with many others tried Linux during college and I assure you, the claims you make are grossly over-stated and hinge on falsehoods. I admire your attempts in getting computers in the hands of disadvantaged people but putting linux on these machines is holding our kids back.

This is a world where Windows runs on virtually every computer and putting on a carnival show for an operating system is not helping these children at all. I am sure if you contacted Microsoft, they would be more than happy to supply you with copies of an older verison of Windows and that way, your computers would actually be of service to those receiving them…

Teachers do great work, get paid and recognized far too little for it, and can’t be expected under those conditions to have perfect knowledge of every aspect of what they teach a class of Middle School kids.

That said, what this woman did, far more than betraying a less than perfect knowledge, served to spread the most offensive, outrageous, insidious lie about non-commercial technologies – that they are not of full service to regular people.

Consider that my message about her profoundly wrong message – this blog post – has been brought to you (literally) by the Apache Web Server, the software that answered your click to my blog and sent you this page. Apache is a non-commercial technology project written by a team of open-source developers over years, that serves billions of clicks every minute. It is very much “of service” – to at least 4/5ths of the Web.

Unaware that the web she uses is a product of noncommercial development, she has heretofore lived in a cognitive bubble of FUD – Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt . FUD is an appeal to fear  of the very same non-corporate technologies that form and enable so much of her world. She has been willingly fed upon and regurgitated ignorance and presumption that value and srvice is exclusively the result of commercial software development – a value exchanged for dollars.

That bubble, as the full post at HeliOS correctly says, is popping right this minute as no doubt tens of thousands of code-writing, clued-in nerds with less-than-sterling social skills are furiously defaming (and educating) her from Finland to Fiji. And while that’s going to be an ugly experience for her, let it be known that it’s about time teachers knew more about the technological world they lived in and how much they owe to open-source projects like HeliOS.

It’s not as if teachers don’t understand the process of going outside of the paid paradigm to deliver value to their students – how many hundreds of stories have we heard of teachers in slashed-budget school systems who pay out of pocket for educational supplies? Let those stories be their guide to understanding the total bankruptcy of FUD.

(Original link swiped from Electrical Audio forum)

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rob [at] warmowski [dot] com

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Rob Warmowski entry at Chicago Punk Database
1984-89: Defoliants
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December 2008

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