EditorsAbout the SiteComes vs. MicrosoftUsing This Web SiteSite ArchivesCredibility IndexOOXMLOpenDocumentPatentsNovellNews DigestSite NewsRSS

08.19.19

Guarding and Rescuing the FSF Titanic: Free Software in Education

Posted in Free/Libre Software, FSF at 9:31 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

A publication from the Free Media Alliance

Overview

  • Part 1: Guarding and Rescuing the FSF Titanic: Introduction
  • Part 2: Guarding and Rescuing the FSF Titanic: Free as in Speech
  • You are here ☞ Part 3: Guarding and Rescuing the FSF Titanic: Free Software in Education
  • Part 4: Guarding and Rescuing the FSF Titanic: Narcissism in The Community
  • Part 5: Guarding and Rescuing the FSF Titanic: The Simplest Ways that AI will Change Computing
  • Part 6: Guarding and Rescuing the FSF Titanic: There is More Than One Iceberg Ahead
  • Part 7: Guarding and Rescuing the FSF Titanic: Distro-libre and feature-schema
  • Part 8: Guarding and Rescuing the FSF Titanic: A Free (as in Freedom) Library, and Federation of Advocates

A school bus

Summary: “If everyone learns to code, then everyone gains some understanding of how to code in other languages.”

In the decade that the FSF was founded, computer education was not yet based on applications. By the 1990s, education was moving towards application training, which meant two things: computer training became a lot more superficial, and it better served the market for proprietary software.

Computers are multi-purpose machines, and applications focus on specific tasks. This means that if your education shifts from teaching about computing to training to use applications, you also move from teaching something multi-purpose to teaching something application-specific.

This is fine of course, if all you intend to do with the computer is use those specific applications.

“Computers are multi-purpose machines, and applications focus on specific tasks. This means that if your education shifts from teaching about computing to training to use applications, you also move from teaching something multi-purpose to teaching something application-specific.”This point should bother every Free software advocate. We are trying to give people control of their multi-purpose machines back, and they aren’t even taught what they can do with that control.

The essence of computing is not applications, but code. Although it is reasonable to assume that most people will not become skilled application developers, the fundamental understanding of computing is still missing for anyone that hasn’t learned how to code.

Coding in one language to some degree teaches much of what someone would have to learn to code in other languages. When Silicon Valley initiates their teach-everyone-to-code schemes, they are gambling with the compromise that was made to education in the 1990s.

If everyone learns to code, then everyone gains some understanding of how to code in other languages. To a small degree, they get back a part of their understanding of what power they really have.

“If everyone learns to code, then everyone gains some understanding of how to code in other languages.”Nonetheless, education is still focused on teaching a lot of proprietary software. If Free software advocates make it a goal, there is no reason we can’t create “Free software coding schools” (they will be cheaper if they’re virtual. Consider something less like DeVry and more like Khan Academy, for starters) and stand up to the non-free-laden schooling that teaches people to compromise their freedom long before they’re halfway through university.

We have such classes online — we don’t have our own schools, and one should be built. If someone can build PeerTube, we can make Free Software Academy and send all of our friends there.

Silicon Valley is doing this, and we should be doing this for Free software.

If we do not reach at least high-school-level students with an education in Free software, then we have squandered an opportunity to teach about freedom at an optimal stage.

If the idea is to reach people as early as possible, then a practical language that is easy-to-learn as possible should be considered.

A single implementation is probably not the answer. It’s a nice goal, but if we had a team of 20 people to work on such a thing we could split them up into 3 or 4 teams to come up with 3 or 4 different solutions.

“If the idea is to reach people as early as possible, then a practical language that is easy-to-learn as possible should be considered.”Then we could go to each member and ask them which solution they thought was best, and second-best (this means they must vote on at least one solution that is not their own) and ask them to explain their choices. Perhaps the team could then work on the top two choices.

It would be ideal for developers to try teaming up with educators (or vice versa) to develop teaching environments that are closer to what educators really need. This is a great opportunity for volunteers. Teaching this sort of computing to educators would also be a great idea.

Of course the FSF isn’t likely to do this. It only has so much money and so many volunteers, and it is not making good use of its volunteers– if the FSF were making good use of its volunteers, it could do this. Instead the volunteers are focused on promoting the organisation and its message, much more than they are invited to help develop solutions.

The FSF should be training people to become coders, or trying to encourage people to create an organisation for that purpose and then supporting that organisation (with money or at least advice and promotion) but they are not. What the FSF cannot do, someone else ought to. Of course this chapter would not be here if we were not inviting all Free software advocates to help with this.

“But along with Free software, Free Culture, Free Hardware and OER (or better yet, “LER” for “Libre Educational Resources”) society and Free software alike would benefit deeply from an organisation dedicated to Free software (coding) and free culture in education.”This is a specific area where additional Free software organisations would be useful — whether the unincorporated, no-dues no-budget volunteer-only sort, or the more traditional 501c-type organisations (or both.)

But along with Free software, Free Culture, Free Hardware and OER (or better yet, “LER” for “Libre Educational Resources”) society and Free software alike would benefit deeply from an organisation dedicated to Free software (coding) and free culture in education.

Lightweight applications for education are also recommended, because even if your school has plenty of money, countless others don’t. As long as we are creating our own software, we should be standing against Wirth’s law.
Simple languages aimed at teaching these basics:

1. Variables	 2. Input	 3. Output
4. Basic math	 5. Loops	 6. Conditionals	7. Functions

can make it easier to learn the fundamentals of coding and help transition those interested to more complex languages. Earlier languages can be more forgiving of syntax errors if there are fewer places to get the syntax wrong. Simplifying some of the interfaces needed to build distros and applications would also help immensely.

Licence: Creative Commons CC0 1.0 (Public Domain)

Share this post: These icons link to social bookmarking sites where readers can share and discover new web pages.
  • Digg
  • del.icio.us
  • Reddit
  • co.mments
  • DZone
  • email
  • Google Bookmarks
  • LinkedIn
  • NewsVine
  • Print
  • Technorati
  • TwitThis
  • Facebook

If you liked this post, consider subscribing to the RSS feed or join us now at the IRC channels.

Pages that cross-reference this one

What Else is New


  1. Confirmation: System1/Startpage Offered Pay to People Who Pushed for (Re)Listing in Privacy Directories

    The debate is now settled; those arguing in favour of listing Startpage as privacy-respecting are in fact secretly 'compensated' by Startpage (in other words, they're Startpage 'shills')



  2. Vandana Shiva: “Bill Gates is Continuing the Work of Monsanto”

    A recent interview on what Bill Gates is really up to in that sham ‘charity’ of his



  3. IRC Proceedings: Wednesday, January 22, 2020

    IRC logs for Wednesday, January 22, 2020



  4. Extending Linux With DRM, Azure and exFAT

    An insufficiently 'conservative' Linux ceases to be freedom-respecting



  5. Linux Foundation (LF) Now Dominated by Lots of Microsoft People and LF Chiefs Join Microsoft in Smearing GPL/Copyleft

    We continue to see additional evidence which serves towards reinforcing our view that the so-called 'Linux' Foundation is actually hostile towards many things that are associated with Linux (unlike those looking to exploit/hijack Linux for proprietary ends)



  6. Links 22/1/2020: Wayland 1.18 Alpha, ODF 1.3 Approved

    Links for the day



  7. IRC Proceedings: Tuesday, January 21, 2020

    IRC logs for Tuesday, January 21, 2020



  8. Poor Excuses for Granting Poor (and Often Illegal/Invalid) Patents

    A quick look at some of the latest examples of software patents advocacy (not by actual software professionals, obviously) and why it's deeply misguided (or guided solely by greedy law firms)



  9. A Simple Plan For a Universal Free Software Community

    "For software to be free as in freedom, we need more people to care personally about software freedom."



  10. Links 21/1/2020: Wine 5.0 and Red Hat Enterprise Linux 8.2 Beta

    Links for the day



  11. Startpage/System1 Almost Definitely Pay for People to Lie About Their Surveillance

    A longterm investigation suggests that there are forces in the debate that aren't objective and are being super evasive and dodgy; this typically happens only when somebody has much to hide



  12. The Internet is an Appalling Medium for News and It Has Only Gotten Worse

    Something ought to change in the way people gather and assess news; at the moment — as proper journalism runs out of steam (and budget) — things only deteriorate and quality suffers; this rapidly exacerbates as people come to rely on — and then relay — hearsay, not fact-checked bodies of work



  13. Media Reactions to the EPO Coming to Grips With Fake Patents That It Granted (Spoiler: the Media is Controlled by Lawyers of Monopolists and EPO Partners)

    Appalling quality of reporting and truly awful bias in the media, primarily owing to the fact that it is dominated/manned not by actual reporters but the firms looking to patent life itself; they use their lawyers and operatives who are literally funded by these lawyers (wearing "journalist" badges to mislead)



  14. Links 21/1/2020: EarlyOOM Fedora Decision and AMD Zen 3 Microcode

    Links for the day



  15. IRC Proceedings: Monday, January 20, 2020

    IRC logs for Monday, January 20, 2020



  16. Links 20/1/2020: MNT Reform, Linux 5.5 RC7, KMyMoney 5.0.8

    Links for the day



  17. Mansion of Pedophilia – Addendum: Accessing and Assessing Court Documents

    How anyone out there can do the job the media failed to do (after an apparently unprecedented arrest at the home of Bill Gates)



  18. Mansion of Pedophilia – Addendum: Progress on Police Request

    9 updates from the police department of Seattle but still nothing material/concrete, only promises and major delays



  19. IRC Proceedings: Sunday, January 19, 2020

    IRC logs for Sunday, January 19, 2020



  20. Mansion of Pedophilia – Part VIII: More Than 4 Months of Waiting for Police Department to Send Over the Files They Claim to Have an Issue Opening

    The police department (PD) of Seattle is unable to open its own files about arrest for pedophilia at Bill Gates' home; it has been unable to open these files for several months, it claims...



  21. Starting a GNU Replacement for GitHub, Possibly Based on GitLab

    "It might be easier if we start from the GitLab software," Stallman said



  22. European Commission Pushes for Even Greater Patent Maximalism Instead of Rationality, Patent Zealots' Site Cherry-Picks China as Whipping Boy

    Fear of China is being leveraged to promote an agenda of patent maximalists; the general idea they promote is that granting millions of low-quality patents is the only way to compete, even if in reality that merely handicaps the whole market



  23. CRISPR Patents Disallowed, But Where Are the Journalists?

    The narrative surrounding last week's decision against CRISPR patents may have been virtually monopolised by the litigation think tanks and law firms; it certainly feels like no journalism is left to rebut them, fact-check, and introspect



  24. Links 19/1/2020: Wine 5.0 RC6, Alpine 3.11.3

    Links for the day



  25. Judges Reject EPO Patents on Life as Constitutional Complaints Against the EPO Pile Up in Germany

    EPO judges throw out patents on life (CRISPR at least); there's now growing hope that they'll have the courage to do the same to patents on software



  26. IRC Proceedings: Saturday, January 18, 2020

    IRC logs for Saturday, January 18, 2020



  27. StartPage (System1) Found New Spin Allies. Some Have Been Offered StartPage Jobs. Some Might Already be Working for StartPage in Secret.

    Pro-StartPage voices appear to be paid (or have been promised pay) by StartPage; the key strategy of StartPage seems to be, attack and betray people's privacy while paying people in particular positions to pretend otherwise



  28. IRC Proceedings: Friday, January 17, 2020

    IRC logs for Friday, January 17, 2020



  29. Links 18/1/2020: Mir 1.7 and GNU Guile 3.0.0

    Links for the day



  30. IRC Proceedings: Thursday, January 16, 2020

    IRC logs for Thursday, January 16, 2020


RSS 64x64RSS Feed: subscribe to the RSS feed for regular updates

Home iconSite Wiki: You can improve this site by helping the extension of the site's content

Home iconSite Home: Background about the site and some key features in the front page

Chat iconIRC Channel: Come and chat with us in real time

Recent Posts