Open Source Education

GNU Not UnixIn the world of computing there is a whole class of stuff called "Open Source". It's built on the idea that things work out for everyone if stuff is freely available and people can choose what they wish to work on.

This works great, open source projects have revolutionized our world. The web is essentially an open source project, Google and Facebook run on top of open source systems, MacOS is built on another open source project, FreeBSD. Most digital watches (Linux kernel), cell phones (Linux again), smart phones (Android and iPhone both), and websites (Apache, PHP, MySQL) in the world run on Open Source based projects.

The thing is, when run on pure anarchy, open source projects quickly die. (It's true, anarchy's impractical) The most successful open source projects have what is jokingly referred to as a BDFL (Benevolent Dictator for Life). The idea is that even in a free environment there do have to be people at the top who make decisions, and keep things on track. In an open source environment the Benevolent Dictator is kept benevolent because of the knowledge that any person can take the entire project and setup their own version of it and do what they want (that's called forking). If the BDFL is a jerk, everyone takes their marbles a moves down the street.

Jake Von Slatt and his Wimshurst MachineOpen Source has been leaking into the real world. I am a part of something called the Maker movement, which is intent on taking back every day stuff, from toasters to TV's to cars; figuring out how to fix and modify them to fit us, and then share that knowledge. Many people characterize the Arab Spring as an essentially Open Source movement. The Tea Party and Occupy movements were at their start Open Source movements. (And no, I'm not trying to get political, go take that to someone who cares) Private Schools, the Voucher movement, and Charter Schools are attempts to take education Open Source.

Birchtree was started by a group of parents who put a whole lot of work into it. And I for one am disappointed. I see my wife and friends wholly demoralized, some are ready to move on, and others have. Are they the loud ones? Yeah. Do they think that 'fuck' is verbal garnish? Yeah. But they're also the ones who will literally work their hands to the bone. I am not going to give up. If, God forbid, we are pushed out, I will continue. I will, with those who are willing, fork this project and start up next door. But I do not want to do that.

To me this is the defining moment. Who and what is this school for? Earlier Stephanie (?) said that much of the problem was that we have people who are used to and expect an institutional setting and we need to educate them. Is it just another institution that consumes money, teaches to tests, guilts children into fund raisers and scares them at budget time? Or is it a community of students, teachers and families, (and yes a BD) that educates but stands for something more? I whole heartedly believe this. Window StarOur job is to take an active part in our children's rearing. Education is a major part of that. Building a community is essential.

Is this a protest group? Right now it is. But even in the first day we got over the complaining. Then we started making plans for our community, the Birchtree community. We're not trying to start a fight. We're not trying to tear anything apart. We're trying to participate in the school we started for our kids and ourselves.

BTW, you can't write a post about Open Source and not give props. The images I used are the GNU logo, Jake Von Slatt of the Steampunk Workshop, and a Window Star from my Wife's blog, Hey What's for Dinner Mom.

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