The below piece, written by Mr. R. Scott Belford of the Hawaii Open Source Education Foundation, is a to-the-point treatise on why public schools in the United States continue their love affair with Microsoft, when there are such wonderful alternatives available.
Educators wear their degrees and awards on their sleeves, thus showing
everyone else how smart they supposedly are. And they are in fact
intelligent; I know a bunch of them.
So, given the massive bargain that Free Software provides to schools, especially in forms like K12LTSP and Edubuntu, a few questions naturally arise:
Mr. Belford explains it beautifully.
N. B.: the only edit I made was hiding the actual email addresses
due to spam-bots. With that single exception, the below is
Subject: [K12OSN] Schools and the OPM Addiction
Date: Sat, 01 Dec 2007 12:07:19 -1000
From: R. Scott Belford
Reply-To: Support list for open source software in schools.
Organization: The Hawaii Open Source Education Foundation
To: Support list for open source software in schools, Edubuntu Community, HOSEF Managers, LUAU
I fear that far too often good-willed and well-intending education advocates fail to fully understand the extent of OPM addiction in the American education system. More successful advocates have learned to enable the use of OPM within the schools. They fund this addiction with enticing technology trinkets and strong-armed contractual agreements.
OPM, Other People's Money, is a delight to use. It feels so good, and it spends so well. It is not to be confused with what most of us are left with, Money. It is hard to come by, painful to spend, and there never seems to be enough of it. When using OPM you'll take two of whatever, and make it a deluxe. When using M, you clip coupons.
If you would like to succeed in helping most schools and education systems, experience shows that they need you to facilitate their OPM use. You must appreciate their appetite is voracious, and that if they do not use their entire hoard of OPM each year, they don't get more next year, as promised. Successful vendors succeed by supplying schools with OPM on a consistent and reliable basis.
This is where the conspiracy lies, so take it for what it is worth. Some vendors offer luscious, enticing hardware that everyone wants. Though they use some fruit as their name, they still succeed in getting schools to eagerly adorn themselves in their regal iJewelry. Understanding how important it is for the children to see their schools wearing only the best, the public eagerly supplies sufficient OPM without question. Some is sold off to Vendors who in turn build more eye iJewlery. It could be, and it does get, worse.
Sometimes the OPM trade is a bit more ugly. For those with squeamish stomachs, please put down your bialy. Some Vendors have managed to enslave our schools in barbed chains of sophisticated contractual agreements. In order to get the DEHLENIB hardware necessary to adorn themselves, they must commit to consecutive years wearing the same undergarments. In the past they could at least change these undergarments or add new hardware trinkets. Now they are contractually forbidden to make such hygiene changes. This becomes smelly.
It is true that there are some schools that are trying to Free themselves from this OPM addiction. All the OPM abuse has given them very bad teeth, and now they need FLOSS. They are looking for the kind-hearted souls out there willing to help them stay OPM Free and well FLOSSed. This is where many of the more benevolent among us have invested our passions. However, we must appreciate that these recovering schools are usually the least capable of stopping the abuse of OPM in their districts, regardless of how noble and economical their story.
So to you I say learn to use OPM, but find a way to ween our blinded and addicted schools. Forgive them for they know not what they do. Instead, show them how FLOSSing can actually help them to spend their OPM on other things, like more counselors and educators. While they too may be OPM users, perhaps they won't be. If properly educated, our youth don't have to be OPM users.
By reaching out to our youth and our college students in non-academic environments(1), they can see the benefits of FLOSSing instead of using OPM. They will eventually be hired by those schools you have taken to lunch, intoxicated with OPM, and adorned with your own FLOSS filled Trinkets. You never know when they may want to open them up for a little cleaning.