GNU and the FSF, along with many others, are celebrating the 30th anniversary of the free software movement. To mark that, Richard Stallman has an excellent article over at Wired, “Why Free Software Is More Important Now Than Ever Before“, in which he explains why free software is good for users and some downsides of the services that we’re trusting with our data.
This is a perfect read for me right now, as I’ve been trying to think of good ways to put into words the excitement of building a central publishing platform at Washington State University around WordPress. Using open source software for this task feels right and open sourcing as much of the work that we do feels even better.
Stallman provides a couple great quotes on why public schools should be champions of free software. I’m going to take them out of context because I like them so much. Please go read the entire article anyway.
The indirect harm [of using non-free software] is magnified when the user is a public entity or a school. Public agencies exist for the people — not for themselves. When they do computing, they do it for the people. They have a duty to maintain full control over that computing on the people’s behalf. Therefore, they must use only free software and reject SaaSS.
Schools — and all educational activities — influence the future of society through what they teach. So schools should teachexclusively free software, to transmit democratic values and the habit of helping other people. (Not to mention it helps a future generation of programmers master the craft.) To teach use of a non-free program is to implant dependence on its owner, which contradicts the social mission of the school.
So happy to have read this today.