Our school is banning installation of Linux and other non-macOS operating systems on our school mac airs. I personally disagree with this, and I intend to explain my thinking.


Email Exchange

You can view a PDF version of the original email sent here

This is meant specifically for the administration and the IT department.

Letter

Can we have more explanation as to why students are not allowed to install non-macOS operating systems? I’m not defying, I would just like more info about why the decision was made. I hope to state my case and reasoning in this article.

I feel that restricting our students stifles innovation, which is what we for stand here at the L&N STEM Academy. For example, I am using my school issued mac with macOS on it right now (as my personal computer is being fixed) and I find it restrictive to not only my inschool activities, but also projects which go outside of institutional learning. It has been said many times that students of our school go above and beyond what is required of them, yet we restrict what they must do to accomplish this.

We are given this mac airs for free (as in gratis), but we are not able to use them freely (like libre). I value the gift of a computer in the monetary sense, but I reject the notion that our education and motivation to move beyond a classroom should be treated in this manner.

Currently, students cannot install programs which allow this kind of healthy learning that I first experienced when I came to this school, through my personal computer. Being able to install a large number of programs was essential for my education, as I would have never learned about a lot of technologies I have used. I wish that entering freshman and current enrollees alike will be able to learn and explore to their maximum potential.

I do realize this only affects a very small portion of students; most students simply don’t care. That’s fine, I guess, but I disagree with the non-sequitur that because not many students are affected we shouldn’t address this. I humbly ask that the administration rethink their position on GNU/Linux and other operating systems, as well as the current software installation process.

Here are some possible solutions I see:

  • The ability to install a freedom respecting operating system (which the school IT, or even other students could help with). This could assure that students aren’t forced into anything, while still valuing education. (I would suggest edbuntu).

  • A reformed system to install programs. Self service currently only provides a fraction of the programs that could reasonably be installed. We need a way that students can easily submit programs for review, and if they are found to be quality and educational, that they be added to self service (or use a completely new system for installing programs altogether).

I’ve written another article on this very subject, and in these articles, my central point is this:

  • Schools should use (or at least support the use of) free software.
  • Students should be able to run programs (within reason) that they want to run.

And some people have been misrepresenting my claims, so to clarify:

  • I do not think that students should be given complete control over everything on their computer (surely not everyone, but there may be exceptions).
  • I do not think that students should be able to damage/destroy/permamently alter their computer (unless it is their own, obviously).
  • I do think that the current situation are school is in restricts users too much (for example, you cannot install GIMP without ‘breaking’ the school security measures).
  • I do acknowledge that this does not affect many computer users.

However, I would like to take this opportunity to thank our administration and IT staff for all the wonderful work they have done. While I disagree with the administration’s choice in this matter, I still value their commitment to us, the students, and know that though we may have our differences, we are free to share our opinions.


Thank you for reading,

    Cade Brown


Any questions, comments or concerns about this article can be sent to:

cade@cade.site