[Top][All Lists]

[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]

Re: [Fsedu-developers] Why schools should use exclusively free software

From: James Michael DuPont
Subject: Re: [Fsedu-developers] Why schools should use exclusively free software
Date: Fri, 5 Dec 2003 15:25:35 +0100 (CET)

Here is a text that i am about to submit to my advogato diary :
Dear all, 
Here is a longer post of mine that should summ up my ideas on freedom in 

Just found this new post :
<a href=http://www.gnu.org/philosophy/schools.html>Stallman's Recent essay on 

It was linked from 
<a href=http://www.gnu-friends.org/>The Gnu-Friends</a>

Which has an article from Sirian
<a href=http://www.gnu-friends.org/story/2003/2/12/234945/254>S11 Article on 
GNU Friends</a>

Who is a leading member of the fsedu project 
<a href=http://fsedu.org/>The FSEdu Project</a>

Now, what I would like to point out here, is an important point that came up in 
my discussions with redhat <a 

<strong>What are the rights of a natural person? Do they have the rights to use 
free software? Do they have the rights to use only free software? My answer is 
yes : that is a right that they have, untill it is taken away or sold.

If we analyse the transactions leading up to the loss of rights, you will see 
the breaking points :
<li>The school gets software and in turn sells the rights of the students to 
use free software. 
<li> The teacher requires that the student submit assignments using non free 
file formats.
<li>The student buys student licensed software with the added conditions that 
they are monitored for illegal usage.
<li>The school has an online course that is only usable using non free software.

In order to save money, people resort to illegal copying : 
<li>The schools install new pcs with software that is not licensed. 
<li>The student installs illegal copies of the non-free software in order to be 
able to fulfill requirements
<li>Courses that would be possible are not done because of lacking budget for 

All of the possiblities are happening today in schools around the word. 
People's rights are being sold out to software vendors, with the follow ups of 
surveilence of the students and illegal copying to offset costs. 

This illegal activity is a result of the original step of the decision to sell 
the rights of the students to use free software. A downward spiral ending in 
the criminalization of the students and teachers gets put into place.

The proper solution to the problem is to use only free software in the schools. 
For that to happen however, the free software community needs to be able to 
deliver the solution. And we need to make people aware of the dangers of 
non-free software in education.

The awareness is the problem however for many reasons :
<li> The educational sector is lacking in general any idea of freedom. They are 
completly used to having to buy text books, buy software, pay for expensive and 
freedom-robbing solutions. When you come with software that is free, then you 
are fighting against an entrenched non-free community that really does not 
appreciate it.

<li> The OSS companies are making a large amount of money off of non-free 
learning materials and courseware. The entire red hat academy is corrupted, in 
my opinion, with non-free software. This lacking of support from even the OSS 
industry makes it harder to get support in the community.

<li> The students are not aware of thier freedoms. They are taught from the 
beginning to accept the non free software, to respect licenses. They are being 
taught to be consumers in a right-less society where they are just digging 
deeper the hole of IP. It is very scary and difficult for them say no. There 
needs to be a support organisation for that to take place. And many people are 
scared of "rocking the boat". If they are going to an good school, they might 
be already aware of the inbalance in the rights of the people, and be learning 
to exploit that for thier own benefits. Thus, the students might not see free 
software as to thier own advantage!

<li> The teachers : Teachers are gaining from the lack of rights. People 
producing learning materials do not want to have these materials easily copied, 
because they lose revenue. They are used to non-free software and see it as a 
loss to give up on them and learn new software.

<li>The government :
May people in the boards of education are dealing directly with software 
vendors. They are becoming pushers of non-free software and selling the rights 
of thier students.

The requirements for a solution are following. 

<li> Education in rights

The first thing that people need to learn about is their rights. They need to 
understand what basic rights they have. We need courses in software licensing 
and contractual law for people to learn about how to read contracts. People 
need to be able to submit contracts for review to a body of experts for 
classification and help.

<li> Whistelblowing

We need a central way for students and teachers to blow the whistle on schools. 
When a student is forced to install free software, or sees that a school is 
installing more licenses than they have, we need to track that. In fact, it 
might be needed that students register what software is installed so that it 
can be checked if it is licensed.

That is one way to promote free software: eliminate the usage of illegal 
versions of non-free software.

<li> Means of payment

The only real way to provide educational materials that are of high quality is 
to provide for a way for people who work on them to live! If there is no 
payment, then there is no way to ensure quality. 

One idea that we have come up with is a framework for allowing people to create 
content and sell that. The idea would be that people would provide content to 
fulfill a curicula, and that subscribers would pay for that to be created. They 
would receive a copy of the content and also online support and tutoring from 
the teacher, for which they would pay. The end result would be that the results 
are published under a free license that allows for reuse of the content. The 
course would be financed by the payment for the service of teaching and testing 
which is reimbursed. The same applies for the supporting of schools with 
installation and support services. Only when there exists a infrastructure for 
supporting a large school that is cost effective will free software succeed in 

<li> Awareness and activism:
The final solution is activism.
There needs to be a way to promote free software in the schools, the boards of 
education and the government. We need a way to deliver this software to the 
people and to support them. This can only happen when there is a respectable 
and solid basis for it.

In total the prospect of free software in education is very bad. It will be a 
slow process that might only happen when there is a generation change in our 
society. It can also be that our society is not ready to accept the social and 
political revolution that is brought by the giving freedom back to the students.


reply via email to

[Prev in Thread] Current Thread [Next in Thread]