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- GNU Project - Free Software Foundation</title>
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<h2>Why Schools Should Exclusively Use Free Software</h2>


<address class="byline">
by <a href="http://www.stallman.org/">Richard Stallman</a></p>

<p>Educational activities (including schools) Stallman</a></address>
<hr class="thin" />
<div class="article">
Educational activities, including schools of all levels from
kindergarten to university, have a moral duty
to <a href="/education/education.html">teach only free

<p>All computer users ought to 
<a href="/philosophy/free-software-even-more-important.html">
insist on free software</a>: it gives users
the freedom to control their own computers—with proprietary
software, the program does what its owner or developer wants it to do,
not what the user wants it to do.  Free software also gives users the
freedom to cooperate with each other, to lead an upright life.  These
reasons apply to schools as they do to everyone.  However, the purpose
of this article is to present the additional reasons that apply
specifically to education.</p>
<div class="column-limit"></div>

<p>Free software can save schools money, but this is a secondary
benefit.  Savings are possible because free software gives schools,
like other users, the freedom to copy and redistribute the software;
the school system can give a copy to every school, and each school can
install the program in all its computers, with no obligation to pay
for doing so.</p>

<p>This benefit is useful, but we firmly refuse to give it first place,
because it is shallow compared to the important ethical issues at
stake.  Moving schools to free software is more than a way to make
education a little “better”: it is a matter of doing good
education instead of bad education.  So let's consider the deeper

<p>Schools have a social mission: to teach students to be citizens of
a strong, capable, independent, cooperating and free society.  They
should promote the use of free software just as they promote
conservation and voting.  By teaching students free software, they can
graduate citizens ready to live in a free digital society.  This will
help society as a whole escape from being dominated by

<p>In contrast, to teach a nonfree program is implanting dependence,
which goes counter to the schools' social mission.  Schools should
never do this.</p>

<p>Why, after all, do some proprietary software developers offer
gratis copies<a href="#note1">(1)</a> of their nonfree programs to
schools?  Because they want to <em>use</em> the schools to implant
dependence on their products, like tobacco companies distributing
gratis cigarettes to school children<a href="#note2">(2)</a>.  They
will not give gratis copies to these students once they've graduated,
nor to the companies that they go to work for.</p> for.  Once you're dependent,
you're expected to pay, and future upgrades may be expensive.</p>

<p>Free software permits students to learn how software works.  Some
students, natural-born programmers, on reaching their teens yearn to
learn everything there is to know about their computer and its
software.  They are intensely curious to read the source code of the
programs that they use every day.</p>

<p>Proprietary software rejects their thirst for knowledge: it says,
“The knowledge you want is a secret—learning is
forbidden!” Proprietary software is the enemy of the spirit of
education, so it should not be tolerated in a school, except as an
object for reverse engineering.</p>

<p>Free software encourages everyone to learn. The free software
community rejects the “priesthood of technology”, which
keeps the general public in ignorance of how technology works; we
encourage students of any age and situation to read the source code
and learn as much as they want to know.</p>

<p>Schools that use free software will enable gifted programming
students to advance.  How do natural-born programmers learn to be good
programmers?  They need to read and understand real programs that
people really use.  You learn to write good, clear code by reading
lots of code and writing lots of code.  Only free software permits

<p>How do you learn to write code for large programs?  You do that by
writing lots of changes in existing large programs.  Free Software
lets you do this; proprietary software forbids this.  Any school can
offer its students the chance to master the craft of programming, but
only if it is a free software school.</p>

<p>The deepest reason for using free software in schools is for moral
education. We expect schools to teach students basic facts and useful
skills, but that is only part of their job. The most fundamental task
of schools is to teach good citizenship, including the habit of
helping others. In the area of computing, this means teaching people
to share software.  Schools, starting from nursery school, should tell
their students, “If you bring software to school, you must share
it with the other students.  You must show the source code to the
class, in case someone wants to learn.  Therefore bringing nonfree
software to class is not permitted, unless it is for
reverse-engineering work.”</p>

<p>Of course, the school must practice what it preaches: it should
bring only free software to class (except objects for
reverse-engineering), and share copies including source code with the
students so they can copy it, take it home, and redistribute it

<p>Teaching the students to use free software, and to participate in
the free software community, is a hands-on civics lesson.  It also
teaches students the role model of public service rather than that of
tycoons.  All levels of school should use free software.</p>

<p>If you have a relationship with a school —if you are a
student, a teacher, an employee, an administrator, a donor, or a
parent— it's your responsibility to campaign for the school to
migrate to free software.  If a private request doesn't achieve the
goal, raise the issue publicly in those communities; that is the way
to make more people aware of the issue and find allies for the
<div class="column-limit"></div>

<li><cite><a id="note1"></a>Warning:
<li id="note1">Warning: a school that accepts such an
offer may find subsequent upgrades rather expensive.</cite></li>

<li><cite><a id="note2"></a>RJ expensive.</li>

<li id="note2">RJ Reynolds Tobacco Company was
fined $15m in 2002 for handing out free samples of cigarettes at
events attended by children.  See 
<a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/worldservice/sci_tech/features/health/tobaccotrial/usa.htm">

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