Fresh from threatening schools with the heavies over software licensing, The Federation Against Software Theft (FAST) stands accused today of attempting to indoctrinate schoolchildren.
The industry group, set up 20 years ago to lobby parliament and raise awareness of copyright issues around software, announced on Wednesday a partnership with Thomas Telford school in Shropshire which would see its materials included in a new key stage 5 qualification in Applied ICT.
(A spooky press release headlined “FAST Educates IT Manager of Tomorrow” can be found on their website. Given the state of their site in Firefox - several pages employ IE-only VBScript, so their not even trying to adhere to web standards - I sincerely hope they are not being put in charge of educating anyone involved in IT.)
The announcement was met with howls of protest from open source groups:
Mark Taylor, president of the Open Source Consortium, a group that represents the interests of open source in the public sector, said that when a organisation has to resort to “indoctrination of children” to promote its cause then it’s usually a sign that something is wrong.
“Schools would be better advised educating their pupils on the value of free speech and discussing the relative economic and practical benefits of open source and proprietary production methods than intimidating them with counter-productive propaganda from big businesses,” said Taylor.
Paul Jenkins, from open source consultancy SimpleICT, said the FAST relationship with Thomas Telford was “comical and enraging at the same time”.
ZDNet agreed, decrying FAST’s “propaganda,” but sought succor in the fundamental creative mischievousness of the young:
A smart student will hold up a CD of Windows XP together with one of Linux, and ask why one is larded about with criminalising restrictions - you want to delete me from one computer and put me on another? Evildoer! - while the other simply says “Share me with those who’ll share me again.”
As a compare-and-contrast exercise, Computer World Australia reminds us how learnin’ should be done with the story of Graham Glass’s Ruby on Rails education.
Open source software development, to a degree unmatched by any other modern profession, offers apprentices the opportunity to watch journeymen and masters at work, to interact with them, and to learn how they think, work, succeed, and fail. Transparency and accountability govern not only the production of source code but also the companion processes of design, specification, testing, maintenance, and evaluation.