Copy to Hon. Dalton McGuinty , Premier, Minister of Research and Innovation, and member for my riding of Ottawa South.
I was just told a good-news story about a Toronto area high school computer science teacher who has been using the Linux operating system exclusively in his classroom for the past 5 years. Linux is a very well known collaboratively developed operating system that is not only free for teachers and students to use without additional payment, but also provides the source code so that students can dive deeply into how the software works. Linux provides the same level of access to prior knowledge that students need to learn as providing books in English class provides. Protecting the ability of people to run, copy, distribute, study, change and improve the software is how Free/Libre and Open Source Software (FLOSS) is defined, with Linux being one example of FLOSS software.
The bad-news part of the story is that the school recently dismantled the already running Linux lab and told the teacher that he *must* only teach Microsoft software. Microsoft jealously guards the source code to their software, disallowing teachers and students from studying and improving the software. This is like disallowing English students from reading or building upon existing literature. While Microsoft software might be of limited use for teaching word processing, it is quite inappropriate for teaching computer science. Microsoft software is also funded by royalty-based business models which extract considerable amounts of money from provincial budgets, while FLOSS allows the educational sector to collaborate with all sectors to create software that is then distributed at a marginal cost of zero.
I would like to be told what policy this school was using to justify dismantling this lab and harassing this teacher. Does the Toronto District School Board has an exclusive agreement with Microsoft? Does the Ontario ministry of education have an exclusive agreement?
Please provide me details. I am an Ontario citizen who works and volunteers with FLOSS software. I believe that the future of education is tied to the move away from royalty-based methods of funding the development of knowledge. Knowledge has a marginal cost to the producer of zero, and with new communications technology it is possible to harness this trait of knowledge and allow the marginal cost to the customer to also be zero. FLOSS and Open Access initiatives allowing the educational sector to collaboratively work with other sectors to develop knowledge using methods that will not only reduce costs on the educational community, but will also free that knowledge for the benefit of all humanity.
(Full contact information was provided -- Please ensure that any letters you send to elected representatives contain your full contact information!)