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Re: [school-discuss] Korea brings homegrown open source to schools

Alec Couros wrote:
Steve Hargadon wrote:

On 6/23/05, Daniel Howard <daniel@xxxxxxxxxxx> wrote:

Great article Doug, I forwarded this to another parent who doesn't like the
idea of his child's elementary school moving to Linux because "Microsoft
Office is what they'll be using when they grow up". Along with the
article, I noted that when I was in elementary school, we watched TV on
US-made TVs and listened to vinyl records on US-made record players,
neither of which exist anymore...

I love this argument! It's the same one I hear: won't the children be confused if they use Linux at school and Windows at home? How many of our children already are using Macs in schools, and nobody seems to complain about that! And the kids do just fine...

My only concern about instituting Linux into all these schools is that you are mandating now what teachers are expected to use. I think it's great that South Korea has gone ahead and discovered the economic and technical benefits of Linux, and I think this will be really interesting to see local support economies benefit from this as well. Still, when technologies are mandated or institutionalized, innovation and flexibility can be be hindered. What happens when the alternative becomes the mandated, dominant force and the ONLY choice?

You have to look at the larger picture here. You are right that mandating Linux is going to limit teachers to some extent, just as mandating MS would. However, computer use in schools is but a small part of computer use in society at large. Countries like South Korea (well, just about any country other than the US) are reluctant to allow MS to continue to entrench its monopoly.

One important difference between MS and FOSS alternatives such as Linux is
the motivation behind them.  MS's primary motivation is profit.  I think
their secondary and tertiary motivations are profit, also.  They do try to
at least look like they care about things other than profit, but you don't
have to be all that cynical to believe there is a profit motive even behind
their philanthropic efforts (such as giving free MS software to poor schools).

Linux is a whole other beast.  In fact one of the prime concerns about Linux
was whether or not it could continue to prosper since it wasn't clear whether
any money can be made from it.  With the success of companies like Red Hat
and backing from IBM and others, that isn't such an issue.  Even so, you
would have to be very cynical to ascribe any "evil" intentions to Linux,
in the sense of locking in users to build a revenue base.

Does this address your concern?  I think probably not.  But my point is to
frame this in the broader scope that I think is necessary.  South Korea is
trying to free itself from the dependence on a foreign for-profit corporation
and allow for real choice by society at large (while reducing capital
costs in schools).  Sure no one is forcing businesses and consumers into
buying or using MS products even now, but the reality is that most people
consider this the only effective choice if they even realize they have a

I also would question your apparent assumption that complete freedom of
choice for teachers would be a good thing.  At least at my daughter's
elementary school (in the US), very few of the teachers really want to
make a choice.  They use what is supplied to them and that has some
support behind it.  At my daughter's school, this translates into
Macs, because the one teacher who is really into computers and is
willing to offer support is an Apple fanatic.  There is no official
mandate, and yet there is no real choice, either, at least not at
the individual teacher level (the district actually seems to prefer
MS over Apple).

Imagine what would happen if real choice were given to the students.
What if each student could just choose a CD with an OS and tools of
their choice and use it to boot any of the diskless PCs in their
classroom or lab (ignore for the moment that such "live CDs" do not
exist for Windows as far as I know).  USB flash disks are cheap
enough now that each student could use one to store his/her personal

Is this an ultimate panacea, or a teacher's worst nightmare?  I'm
not a teacher, but I certainly have my own opinion on this.


Don Christensen       Senior Software Development Engineer
djc@xxxxxxxxx         Cisco Systems, Santa Cruz, CA
  "It was a new day yesterday, but it's an old day now."