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Re: [libreplanet-discuss] Suggestions for a coding club that is just sta

From: J.B. Nicholson-Owens
Subject: Re: [libreplanet-discuss] Suggestions for a coding club that is just starting?
Date: Fri, 18 Sep 2015 12:10:28 -0500
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address@hidden wrote:
Teaching coding doesn't involve explaining licences: that is something that
should be instilled by practice and leading the kids to use solutions that
have the appropriate licence.

I disagree; licensing power and responsible use of that power is very much something that must be explicitly taught, not assumed to be picked up by practice or dismissed as an insignificant detail. Licensing power is as much a part of the real world as is code. Therefore to give a practical education, teachers must explain how a user's software freedoms are retained with copyleft licenses and lost with non-copyleft licenses, else one is teaching the "open source" way which (purposefully[1]) does not identify copyleft licenses (except perhaps pejoratively) because that movement has no interest in software freedom and that movement is merely a means for proprietors to leverage programmers' talents toward proprietarization (what I believe Brad Kuhn rightly compared to greenwashing[2] -- organizations that try to dress up anti-environmental behavior with environmentally-sensitive propaganda -- and called "openwashing").

Once they grasp the basics through Scratch, many kids prefer to move to web
development. This requires a text editor that preferably supports
colour-coding: Notepad++ (GPL) is a very popular product for this.

Notepad++ is not as good choice of program to teach software freedom because Notepad++ depends on nonfree software[3], namely Microsoft Windows. GNU Emacs is considerably more capable and can be run on an entirely free system.

Beyond this, the kids try all kinds of stuff, including Mobile using
Cordova (ASL) and native, Java, Python, C/C++, etc. running on every
imaginable platform.

One should not treat every "platform" the same way as if there's no reason to favor one over another, or to let perceived popularity determine a choice of operating system. No phone is free and most phones have their users pick software from walled gardens known as "app stores" in which censorship and anti-software freedom abound. Good teaching requires careful selection, and one should choose a free software system on which nothing but free software is installed.

This is not a matter of learning "every imaginable platform" which no programmer will ever do anyhow. Programmers pick up what they need to know as they go. Good teachers know that students need to know how to learn what they need as they go and students require good incentives to make sound choices. Ignoring or dismissing ethical, social, and political differences teaches students that these concerns are not important, that all they need concern themselves with are the technical issues in programming. That approach is a recipe for making a naive person who is wholly unprepared to deal with the real world and ready to be exploited by some proprietor.

Of course there are many who want to write iPhone apps and there's no
way to avoid proprietary stuff there - while it's great to promote OSS,
we have to be realistic and focus on the goal at hand which is to get
kids to code.

The effort should aim not to "get kids to code" but to teach the human rights users of the software ought to have. This includes freedom and cooperation, values nonfree software simply do not proffer and the open source movement doesn't value outside of benefiting would-be proprietors. As rightly points out, "Schools should teach their students to be citizens of a strong, capable, independent and free society.". Proprietors and their sycophants know how much influence schools can have on society. That's why they give such steep discounts to schools; give them the trap early and they'll learn to think that the trap is the right and proper way to do computing. Proprietors want to set the bounds of allowable debate while the students are unlikely to question what trap is being set before them. They're teaching dependence and either ignoring or denigrating human rights. We must not do the same nor should we think the goals are the same.

The goal should not be to "promote OSS" by which I take it you mean "open source software". That movement stands against software freedom and while its advocates do work with software freedom activists to make great software we have the right to run, share, and modify, the open source movement's values were designed to never discuss software freedom (ostensibly, in an attempt to better speak to businesses, but I think that was merely a ploy to convince naive developers a myth that businesses somehow can't be spoken to straightforwardly about the terms of accepting free software).

[1] Older essay:
Newer essay:


[3] -- Notepad++ has the same problem as that described in this essay: free software with nonfree dependencies.

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