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Software Freedom in education (was Re: very specific project proposal Re

From: Lars Noodén
Subject: Software Freedom in education (was Re: very specific project proposal Re: What does Elon Musk say about free software?)
Date: Fri, 13 May 2022 18:59:56 +0300
User-agent: Mozilla/5.0 (X11; Linux x86_64; rv:91.0) Gecko/20100101 Thunderbird/91.8.1

I fully support building curricula on Free Software exclusively, or as
close to that as possible with an eye towards achieving 100% in the near
future.  RMS wrote an essay around 20 years ago, "Why Schools Should
Exclusively Use Free Software" [1], which could still serve as a
signpost for the FSF.  However, the environment has changed and control
over software has become a fight on many campuses.  Solutions must deal
with that reality.  It's no longer just a technical question, if indeed
it ever was.

On 5/12/22 20:45, Thomas Lord wrote:
> Similarly, say, a college student not in
> computer science or anything close to that?  or a
> professor who may be tempted to require students
> to use unfree software -- where can they quickly and
> easily check for a better option?

That may be a fairly common misunderstanding about the amount of choice
faculty members are allowed in regards to selection of software, at
least in recent years.  Yes, it /should/ be quick and easy to choose a
better option, but in many cases the resellers ensconced in the basement
call *all* the shots in regards to tools, methods, and (sometimes)
courses, especially at the smaller or lower-rated institutions.  So
getting any Free Software into the classroom often means a drawn out
fight.  I gather the problem is especially prominent at institutions
where part-time adjunct faculty are used in a more or less disposable
manner, more on that below.  Furthermore, vendors can exploit that and
there may even be some staff here and there who will accept ready-made
sales packets and present them as course material while slapping a
syllabus of sorts around them.

Many of the teams that actually helped people get their job done went
away after the 1990s ended, leaving resellers/embedded sales teams in
their place.  The part-time, temporary, adjunct faculty are just that
while the resellers tend to be full-time permanent employees, which
means there are a lot of politics and longer strategies involved in the
fight that happens when treading on their vendor's toes.  The long
strategies work against temporary faculty members more so than permanent
faculty members, as it is easy to run the clock out on either group but
much easier on the temps.  Because all that fighting and politics takes
time and energy away from activities more likely to boost a career, it
may be more common in practice to fold quickly, acquiesce and work or
pretend to work with the garbage.

Any solution to getting more Free Software onto campuses and into
classrooms and labs has to address the instability and some of the power
dynamics of the new work environment.  As was said already about 20
years ago, "you can leave politics alone, but politics won't leave you



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