May 13, 2008

Today I was referred to this excellent article by a high school senior from Plano Independent School District in Texas, entitled Open Minds with Open Source (page 46, should your browser not automatically take you there.) It was written by Alex Hirsch, son of Plano ISD's Jim Hirsch, who is a long time open-technologies advocate and former board chair of CoSN. I was particularly taken with his perspectives on open content and invasive copyright enforcement in our digital age:

It is at this point that we must look to the government, as well as large institutions and libraries of knowledge, to continue the march forward, not only to get the information out there, but to ensure true availability. That means no more proprietary formatting and no more invasive digital rights management. We need to unite under a common front of distribution before the system can really work to its fullest; it all starts with cooperation on a global scale.

Music to the ears of many of us who have been for so long preaching the gospel of openness and freedom. How refreshing it is to read that the next generation - the future of America - not only understands, but seeks to right the ship and set a course that might just restore this nation's great legacy of creativity and innovation.

And yet, many would disagree with Alex. Many still believe that the knowledge ownership model is superior. To them Alex offers this warning:

While I admit Wikipedia may be much more enjoyable for some than "Intro to Physics" or Charles Dickens' A Tale of Two Cities, the fact is they all hold equal potential for education, and should be as equally available to students. The danger lies in that if one is easier to obtain than the other, students are much more likely to opt for the easier option, and may miss out on experiencing fundamental concepts of science and literature.

Alex's words speak volumes to the demands of 21st century learners in an age of ownership and control and, while I think he could go further in his call for fundamental change in the education environment, I applaud his thoughtful vision of an "open" future with unhindered access to knowledge and information.


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