Free Software in schools
The letter below was written in April 2012 to discourage the Fort Bend Independent School District (FBISD) in Texas from spending $4,000,000 USD on iPads for their 2nd - 8th grade students. You're encouraged to improve, modify and use the text below to help explain how proprietary software can affect students. -- David Steinhafel Fnord 16:34, 23 August 2012 (EDT)
My name is David and I'm 24 years old, and I was born and educated in Minnesota. My high school exclusively used Apple computers. I can say confidently that Apple computer use in my high school resulted in most my peers:
- being incapable of using non-Apple computer products;
- becoming "locked in" to the vendor Apple, so all their current and future devices and software are purchased through Apple because they don't have the "know how" to migrate their data or even use other operating systems and software interfaces; and
- spending far more money for their education than was necessary to learn how to best utilize computing technologies.
Apple is proprietary software. There is no way to study how the programs and machines work, no way to verify that the programs work correctly, and even no way to determine whether the products secretly collect private or sensitive user information.
Educational institutions shouldn't use proprietary software for these (and other) reasons. There are Free Software alternatives that:
- don't cost any money or cost way less than Apple and Windows machines;
- allow the students to study the program and even change it to function differently or better;
- help emphasize general and best computer practices, so students can figure out how to use any computing operating system and platform, not just the one they were forced to use in school.
For example, students should learn the basics of how word processors work, so they can use any word processor, whether it be on an Apple, Windows, or other platform such as GNU/Linux.
Companies such as Apple and Windows offer 'free' or 'discounted' prices on their proprietary software licenses, so that students become 'hooked' on their platforms and have to pay for them at home or at work whenever they graduate from school.
Apart from inhibiting the learning experience of students, It forces the students to use malware as default systems and giving up all sense of privacy and responsibility (social and ethical) towards their peers along with their humanity. Non-free software aims at posing security and freedom as opposing qualities while free software promotes more security, privacy and freedom in light of positive correlation.
It works directly in favour of authorities and cooperations to hold unlimited power and setup an intricate infrastructure of deep surveillance, suffocating all streaks of free thought leaving one helpless as a goat in lion's den. This makes them vulnerable not only against such institutions but also exposes them to varying forms of malicious attack vectors.
Non-free softwares are often known to hide the intricacies of their operation making it very difficult to understand contemporary technologies which creates a gap of technical competence between generation of programmers in-effect reducing their opportunity to learn, innovate and protect themselves and their peers increasing their dependence on bureaucratic agencies, which directly undermines the very mission of schools to make independent and intelligent citizens.
It is a common case also in technological institutes to promotes the use of non-free software which impacts not only the students of institute but carries adverse impacts on societies crippling and hand-cuffing them to large cooperations and subjecting them to indirect slavery.
Use of non-free software especially in technical institutes results in less creativity among individuals and challenge problem resolution skills, it impacts the technical competence as well as compromises reliability of infrastructure of a society, specially in critical situations.
All fo this in-effect reduces the quality of life for humans and environment as a whole due to lack of any accountability and inflexible systems and skills, and ignorance of very fundamental rights of any living entity. This can lead to hostile conditions in a society against a section or even bargaining on extent of fundamental rights as laws facilitated by the state.
Such practices promotes oppressive culture further and therefore should be checked and acted against actively.
I strongly recommend your students become educated computer users, so they can not only keep their machines and identities secure and private, but also so they can maximize the effectiveness of their computing and be more employable because of their high ability to adapt to whatever computer platform their employer may be using. It is for these reasons and more that I recommend FBISD invests in non-proprietary software systems such as GNU/Linux.
You can learn why Free Software should be used in education at the following links:
- Why Schools Should Exclusively Use Free Software
- Why Educational Institutions Should Use and Teach Free Software
- The Education System in India
More information on GNU/Linux computers and Free Software is available at: