The United States turned down the international standard for measurement and stands alone using the foot, gallon, pound and Fahrenheit degree. Will our stance on software be similar? Will we let corporations decide what is good for us?

openclipart.org (cybergedeon)

How attached are you?

When I was a middle school science teacher during the 1970s, there was a brief period during which we were asked to teach students how easy it is to use the metric system. Just like our decimal system for counting (10 fingers, after all) the metric system offered simple relationships among the measurements, and children learned it easily.

Nonetheless, the effort was brief. Industry rejected the recommendation, saying it would be prohibitively expensive to make the machinery conversions, and besides, everybody already knows the current “English” system of measurements.

Of course, losing the opportunity didn’t mean nothing changed. Look around. Find out what size your soda bottles are. They are almost all based on a metric liter. There are no quart, half gallon, etc. in my grocery store. Most loyal Americans seem to buy Hondas, Toyotas, Mazdas, etc., etc. whose bolts are metric. Did the U.S. citizens suffer from that silent conversion in the automobile industry? A quick check of the Wikipedia page on “engine displacement” indicates that since the 1980s, the industry has adopted the Liter as it’s main volume measure.

Right now, the common software base is Windows. If a program runs on Windows, people claim to know how to use it. If the same program runs on GNU/Linux, is it any more difficult?

Schools are the place where expectations are often set for the future. Is your school tying students to a Windows expectation? It it Macintosh that fills your classrooms? Are you teachers and your students shills for the proprietary formats of Microsoft and Apple, Inc.?

Where is GNU/Linux getting the chance to set student expectations? It is open, teachers and their students can be free to work with it and not be constrained by cost restrictions. There is no need to cry, “We cannot afford that software.”

Of course, the masters of the school computers aren’t the students nor the teachers, not even the early adopters. Most American schools are locked into the choices made by district administrators or worse, by the tech staff.

During the early days of computers in the classroom, the 1970s and 1980s, teachers who jumped at the chance to have a computer made more decisions than they do today. We are stepping backward. Progress is in the hands of the tech staff and administrators who control the money.

It isn’t the hardware which makes a computer useful. It is the software.

As a teacher, are you allowed to bring an old computer into your classroom for students to use, even if it is a Windows or Mac machine? I know of teachers who had to give the computers they brought in to the school which took control of the software installs just as much as they did the hardware.

Where is your software freedom? Do you have any?

Even if you are a tech savvy user, can you get any of your classroom computers set up to provide software freedom for yourself or your students?

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