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[school-discuss] Slaves to Microsoft

I can strongly sympathize with the ideas expressed by
Jason in his posting of 3-30-06. I run the computer
lab at a primary school (K-2) located somewhere in the
Midwestern United States. (All exact locations, names,
&c, will be kept confidential. You will see why.) The
entire district is standardized on Windows XP
Professional. The decision-makers here have told me
pretty explicitly that they view "technology
education" as being the process of training young
people to live and work in a world in which Microsoft
will be making all of the significant tech-related
decisions for everyone forever and ever. As near as I
can tell, this attitude seems to be primarily the
product of a prevailing bureaucratic laziness: if they
don't have to think about anything besides Windows, MS
Office, and directly compatible programs, they don't
have to make too many tough choices. Slavery is
convenient; teaching the students to be slaves helps
to maintain this convenience.

I have successfully installed three different Linux
distros on three different old computers I have at
home. At the same time, my limited and tentative
efforts to discuss GPL and open-source software with
the school district higher-ups have been met with
consistently negative reactions. It seems clear that
pushing the issue too hard would get me fired, which
is also what I would expect to happen if it was
discovered by the wrong people that I posted this
message on this list.

During the summer break in 2005, the school district
got together the money for a major upgrade to the lab
that I run. The computer on which I'm typing this
message has a 3.4 Ghz Pentium 4 HT processor and one
gig of RAM; the other twenty-five computers in this
lab, the ones for student use, each have a 2.8 Ghz P4
HT and 512MB of RAM. All of the user data storage is
done on a 400GB network drive that has at least 90% of
its space still free. Our network speed is
*fast*--when things are working right, we can stream
online videos in ways that you have to see to believe.

According to the info that I received when I was doing
our most recent inventory, the cost of all the new
computers in this lab came to about US$33,000 (yes,
that's thirty-three thousand United States dollars).
Those of you with the appropriate Linux experience can
figure out what kind of large-scale thin-client
environment could be put together for that kind of
money. Instead, we have a vast gap between the quality
of the new lab and what is happening in the rest of
the school. Most of the classrooms in the building in
which I work have only one computer in the room, and
that one is usually relatively old (although they have
been upgraded enough to more-or-less run WinXP). Each
of the new boxes that I have in this lab could be the
server for a big group of thin clients under Linux;
instead we have children as young as five using these
monsters for what are relatively trivial tasks.

Should I stay here and try to gradually change things
from within? Should I take a job elsewhere at some
place where I can do more good and cause less harm to
young children? You folks should feel free to send me
both comments and job offers. . . . :-)


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