[KLUG Advocacy] Linux & Text Books

Robert G. Brown advocacy@kalamazoolinux.org
Sun, 04 Apr 2004 15:04:33 -0400

On Sun, 04 Apr 2004 13:18:51 -0400, Adam Tauno Williams <awilliam@whitemice.org> wrote:

>Here is a quasi-interesting article about Linux in college textbooks.
>I'm not sure what the point is, and given that most textbooks never get
>opened, I don't know if any of this really matters.
For those who  do open their textbooks, it would be good if they found
correct and timely information; to that extent, it does matter. As for the
rest, it might matter, later... perhaps for other textbooks. 

But quotes like
>this are amusing -
>"Unix also poses some security problems, because multiple users and jobs
>can access the same file simultaneously"."
>Ha! Thats funny.
Yes, I get the sense that something was edited out.. maybe a lot.

>Reminds me of the time, **two years ago**, when a Morrison employee
>brought in his daughters High School text book to show me the section
>where it talks about the fact that "someday computers will probably
>communicate directly with each other over phone lines".
Did either of you look at the copyright date?

Some of these textbooks are subject to rather lengthy review processes,
which guarantee that they will be obsolete before the first production
print run.

>Ah, the joys of living in a culture that values and esteems intellectual
Um, if you're waiting for the that to be a value of culture in the large...
almost ANY culture.. you're going to have to cultivate a lot of patience.
I'm not convinced that's true of ANY culture, although some do a better
job of paying it lip service.

Of course, the REAL problem is that the forms of government that have
traditionally given the best lip service to the value of culture and the
pursuit of rigorous intellectuals activity have, in general, been total-
itarian regimes; in this democracy (yes, I know that some people in-
sist on calling this a Republic, but for purposes of this discussion,
it doesn't matter a bit) we rely on the common and collective wisdom 
to make the "right" choices....

HOWEVER, this historically presumes that there is an educational system
that schools (at least some) an appreciable fraction of the populace in
the value and method of civil government, so they can make choices in
an informed way. Once, this existed in the USA, but I don't think it
does now, nor has it for a rather long time... it very much took a 
back seat as a consequence of changes in the aftermath of WW-II. The
result is that we have a population that is terribly self-involved, 
and relies on answers to complex problems that, as HL Mencken once
said, are "simple, satisfying, and wrong".

A lot of people who come out of the system with a degree tend to demand
software tools that they used in getting their degrees, and of course
this is why so many software companies and advocates of particular OS'es,
languages, and methodologies approach schools with all kinds of lucrative
offers for funding, bargain pricing plans, and giveaways. If the educators
had a stronger and better-defined system, they would do well to turn away
most of these, but sadly it is part of the movement that turns the 
education system into a trade schools.

Of course, large corporate organizations are really good at this game. They
can afford the large-scale, persistent, often dull effort of pushing their
products through the approval and purchasing labyrinth and getting them in
front of students. When Linux gets there at all, it gets there mostly 
based on the efforts of local Linux champions.

Mainly, I see that these textbooks appear to get a lot of stuff wrong about
Linux, but I'd also like to point out that a lot of it is stated as opinion
(which ought to be clearly delineated or off-limits in a textbook), but 
also that the lead times for this text (despite the copyright dates) are
quite long, and Linux was probably not on their radar at the time. A lot
of this looks like it was put in as an afterthought.

I have long believed that general perception of Linux lags reality by 
about 18 months. That applies to people outside the Linux community, but
not to the general or lay press. For textbooks, it would not surprise 
me if it were twice or even thrice that.
							---> RGB <---