The Children of Linux

Linux. It’s really not a hard operating system to learn. In fact, that very first statement is wrong. Linux is not an operating system. Linux  a kernel which is used as the very core to build an operating system around. But these are the things that children of today are not learning. Not in public school systems anyway.

When I was a teenager, I was very interested in computers. I looked forward to and really enjoyed my Information Technology classes. But it wasn’t just the computers that I was interested. The more I got involved with them, the more I wanted to know about what goes on to make them work. Or to be precise, the operating system.

It’s a long time ago now, but I remember when I was talking to my teacher one day he briefly said something about Unix. A term that I had never heard until then. But after that one time, nothing more was ever mentioned. At the time, I really didn’t know anything about it. But I was intrigued of what this ‘Unix’ could be. It was some years later before I got my first glimpse of anything to do with Linux-The accepted modern alternative to Unix. My first encounter with Linux was SUSE 8, which came free on a magazine at the time. I might mention, the magazine was not actually meant to be giving the OS away on the front cover as they were. But anyway, that’s a story for another day. But ever since my first experience with SUSE 8, I never let go of Linux and have always been involved with it in one form another.

Now as you all know and are well aware, Windows is basically the only operating system taught in our public schools these days. I understand that Windows is the industry standard and I can accept that. But I don’t believe teaching children how to use Windows, solely, is the way forward to a positive IT future. Or if Linux even got a mention, it would be progress. My high school years were well into 15 years ago and it is now 2012 and nothing has changed. Public schools are still teaching children Windows and (unintentionally) presenting it as the only operating system you’ll ever need to learn and use.

There arises many issues and setbacks with the aforementioned. One of the primary reasons, being the IT teachers themselves having no concept of how to use Linux or even being aware of it. There are many issues from many different angles.
We are very lucky in some ways that we live in a world of fast broadband access where anyone can download and install Linux for free. When I was in high school, a 56k dial-up internet connection was a true privilege and there was only one computer in the whole school that had internet access. I’m probably still on that list to use that computer as the list was always a mile long.

But all my 10 years Linux experience that I have today has all been self-taught. I have put myself through free courses and done plenty of tinkering, configuring and certainly my fair share of breaking systems. And my wife yelling at me because I’ve broken the computer once again! And that continues to this day. Why? Because Linux offer endless learning capabilities. And despite being a 10 year Linux user, I am still learning things on Linux on a daily basis and still intentionally break things to see how they work in detail. In fact, I am currently experimenting with Arch Linux. A very different experience from the usual mainstream Linux distributions like Ubuntu and Fedora. But that is my point. There’s endless possibilities of learning when it comes to Linux. And perhaps that’s the problem when it comes to public schools and teaching Linux. It is such a large scale eco-system with so many different facets, where would one begin to teach. I see that as an excuse for not teaching it. And not a valid reason. Because even giving children a glimpse of Linux in their high school studies will no doubt have a flow-on effect to further private studies and courses.

Linux must be taught to future high school students. Otherwise we are going to experience a severe shortage of knowledgeable Linux administrators in the near future. We are already seeing the first signs of this problem. And unless we start arming the young nerds of today with the knowledge they require to make up their own mind, we are going to have problems. If things don’t change soon, I can only hope that today’s students come out of schooling as open-minded as I did and choose to at least give Linux a try and see for themselves the true raw power of free and open-source computing that is modern Unix, Linux.

Let us know what you think about Linux education in public schooling, we’d like to know your thoughts on the topic. Comment below.