[KLUG Advocacy] Linux & Text Books

Adam Williams advocacy@kalamazoolinux.org
Sun, 11 Apr 2004 19:49:39 -0400 (EDT)

> >Here is a quasi-interesting article about Linux in college textbooks.
> >http://www.linuxinsider.com/perl/story/33301.html
> >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. 

I still have my (now ~10 year old) textbooks.  I was in an IT oriented 
corriculum, not an MBA program.  But my more general textbooks like 
"Business Computer Systems" really doesn't mention specific operating 
systems at all.  They list UNIX, Windows, and Novell; but only as example 
of platforms.  That book is pretty good.  Of course 10 years ago Linux was 
really a true blip (and rightfully so).
> >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?

Both of us recall is as being dated 1975.  So the "someday" had already 
happened,  and of course there is the fact that a textbook from 1975 was 
still in use.

> 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
> >rigor.
> 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.

So true,  but this level of mis/dis-information in 'academic' institutions 
is both amusing (the emphasis of this message) and disturbing.
> 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....

Sort of a vicous cycle can play havoc with 'collective wisdom'.  Effective 
collective wisdom requires that the 'collective' has some baseline of 
education.  A broken down education infrastructure may create a collective 
incapable of reforming an education system back efficacy.

> 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.

This is in large part a response to the demands of the 'collective'.  My 
experience is that parents demand a 'trade school' approach.  Often even 
to the chagrin of educators (whom as a rule I don't think much of, but 
even they complain about the intensity of this pressure).  There are 
currently plans in the works to reform the absolutely disasterous Grand 
Rapids high school systems into this trade school direction in a very 
radical manner.  Tracks of manufacuring, business, and medical services 
may commence as early as middle school.  It is obvious to any thinking 
person how totally absurd this is [track educating perons who won't enter 
the work force for ~6-10 years], but you'll get thrown out on your ear for 
advocating a general education in civics, humanities, and basic scientific 
> 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.

Thats us. :)

> 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.

This is probably true of many things.  The adoption of instant messaging 
is another good example.  It happened, and about 6 months later, everybody 
was shocked at the prevelance of the systems.