Raising the Next Generation on Free Software

Sun, 7 Apr 2024

The world our children will inherit is increasingly dominated by technology. In a world driven by that technology, the software woven into everyday devices influences how our children learn, communicate, and think. It has far-reaching implications in shaping their understanding of the digital landscape, ethics, community, and personal empowerment. Proprietary software teaches a world based on control and subjugation. Free software, with its inherent values of ethics, freedom and collaboration, can transform how children learn and their roles within a complex technological landscape. That's why, as parents, educators, and caring members of society, we have a profound responsibility to teach children about free software values to guide them toward a digital world built on ethics, responsibility, and freedom.

At its core, the principle behind free software is ethics, the freedom to understand how it functions, adapt it to suit your needs, and share it with others. This is where the profound moral lesson comes into play. Schools have a profound and fundamental duty: To nurture and shape our children into responsible citizens, and this includes fostering a spirit of cooperation and mutual aid. They impart skill and knowledge and significantly shape our children's values. In a world increasingly reliant on computing, this means teaching good digital citizenship. It involves the value of sharing, assisting others, and recognizing that knowledge should not be hoarded, especially in the realm of software. It means cultivating a spirit of cooperation over competition and prioritizing community service over self-interest. Teaching with free software embeds these values directly into the learning process.

Imagine a classroom that uses only free software and requires that any software brought in is also free. Instead of reinforcing the idea that software is a mysterious black box controlled by distant corporations, using free software positions children as inquisitive explorers. When they encounter a problem, they have the power to understand and even change how their tools operate. This breeds a sense of agency and encourages problem-solving skills that extend far beyond the computer screen. It's a place where students aren't taught that it's expected to be subjugated by software, but the other way around.

The use of free software transcends technical skills; it nurtures a different mindset. Instead of teaching children to passively accept the restrictions and subjugation of proprietary software, schools can model a collaborative community. Schools must lead by example, using free software exclusively (barring specific exceptions for reverse engineering) and even having classes on understanding the ethical failings of proprietary software.

It's time to act. Your voice matters whether you're a parent, student, educator, or concerned member of society. Talk to administrators, school boards, educators, and fellow parents. Raise awareness about free software and the ethical failure of proprietary software. If initial efforts fail, raise the issue within your community. Utilize online forums, community boards, and social media to build support and find like-minded advocates and allies who understand software freedom is essential. Help schools with the transition to free software. Offer technical expertise and volunteer your time to train educators if you can. By raising the next generation on free software, we empower them to shape a future where technology serves everyone, not just a select few.