Linux: Harmful and Illegal

An article is currently circulating the blogosphere about an irate Austin middle school teacher. The teacher, first name Karen, is incensed at a student for showing classmates how to get Linux software for free. She's even more angry at the person who provided Linux to the student. She wrote, in a letter of complaint:

At this point, I am not sure what you are doing is legal. No software is free and spreading that misconception is harmful. These children look up to adults for guidance and discipline. I will research this as time allows and I want to assure you, if you are doing anything illegal, I will pursue charges as the law allows.

This is all laughably uninformed, except I'm not laughing.

I'm concerned that most people are responding by amping up an even greater level of outrage, and that doesn't seem to be a helpful way to move this forward.

First, this clearly is a teaching moment. I hope people can approach Karen in such as way as not to put her on the defensive, and to show her the positive things that can be done with a current Linux distribution, and explain how open source licensing really works.

I think the most effective thing that could be done would be to take up a collection to send Karen a dozen carnations and an Edbuntu Linux live CD.

Second, this has me wondering how our school district provides technology training to our teachers. A position this misinformed doesn't happen by accident. My suspicion is there is little-to-no training available, and what is available is going to be corporate based, and thus naturally biased against open source solutions.

There might be an opportunity for local Linux professionals and enthusiasts to do something like a brown bag lunch series with local teachers, to show them some of the things that are going on in the world in open source computing, and how they could benefit them and their students.


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Definitely a chance to improve

Her response is clearly misinformed and her tone is definitely off-putting.

My experience so far as a parent of two kids in AISD elementary schools is that computer/technology knowledge and usage at school varies widely from teacher to teacher. Some don't do much beyond the computer lab time assigned to their class and others incorporate a lot of technology into the classroom. There's mostly a mix of Dell and Apple machines in varying states of functioning and a lot of the equipment and software is out of date. I have yet to see a Linux machine at all.

I've offered in the past to help at their school, but it hasn't amounted to much. I'd be interested in any coordinated effort if you hear anything.


I used linux on my desktop at my last jorb and still use it on the server daily. So this isn't from lack of exposure.

There's a comical self-delusion at work among linux supporters that it's ready for the desktop - this has been going on for 10 years or more, and at no point has it been closer than today, and today it's still not that close.

I don't want our school district wasting time debugging driver problems and the like. If none of their vendors sell a turnkey linux solution that they support, it's not worth spending their time on it (outside, maybe, computer class itself).

Oh give her a break. Not

Oh give her a break. Not everyone is as tech-savvy as mainstream opinion would have you believe. She was trying to teach the kids to be honest, something that would seem far more important to a middle-school parent than the relative virtues of open-source software.

I'm a teacher. And I am held

I'm a teacher. And I am held to higher standards by the community. The teacher should have acted more responsibly and should have:

- given the kid due process
- researched before she acted

Instead, she acted as judge, jury and executioner. And fired off a threatening (legal threat) letter. She is reaping what she sowed. Although I do admire her zeal. The schools would be better served with teachers like her, but with proper guidance.