Public schools making MS Office mandatory

Timothy Pearson tpearson at
Thu Apr 7 17:25:28 UTC 2016

Hash: SHA1

On 04/07/2016 12:11 PM, Paul Boddie wrote:
> On Thursday 7. April 2016 18.29.49 Timothy Pearson wrote:
>> On 04/07/2016 06:14 AM, Guido Arnold wrote:
>>> Hello,
>>> I produced a summary of a longer debate on the German discussion
>>> list which addressed a lot of aspects that may be relevant to other
>>> European countries. Please comment here on this list or per PM. The
>>> text below is also available as a blog post [0].
>> As distasteful as I find this I think I can see why it is being done.
>> No government wants people coming out of its educational system that are
>> unfamiliar with the "basic" technology in use around the world.
> This argument about what was called "industry standard" software has been 
> around since the 1980s. In the UK, with a battle between proprietary platforms 
> - the one dominant in education and the one becoming dominant in workplaces - 
> the argument went that children should learn the thing being used in 
> workplaces in order to train them for work.
> (One can argue whether schools are supposed to be training rather than 
> educating, but that's another debate. Given that computing was also meant to 
> be applied to most subjects and be used as an educational tool, it was also 
> questionable that one particular application - office technology - should have 
> been prioritised, but that's also another debate.)
> The flaw in this familiarity argument was that anyone learning the currently-
> popular workplace software was always going to be behind the curve: by the 
> time they had left school, even if they went straight into work and not 
> entered further/higher education first, the chances were that they would be 
> using different products. In fact, the flaw was compounded by the fact that 
> the "education" platform in question had superior products in certain respects 
> that more closely resembled the "industry" platform's products of a few years 
> later than the "industry" platform's own products did when the children were 
> being made to use them.
> (I saw this for myself since I used the "education" platform at home, whereas 
> the school's computers were mostly running stuff using DOS, and even the few 
> Windows computers were running primitive versions of the products people take 
> for granted today. Indeed, some aspects of Office are probably still deficient 
> in comparison to the software I was using at the end of the 1980s and the 
> start of the 1990s.)
> And to keep up with "industry standards", sustained expenditure is needed: 
> rather than there being a change in favoured products, it is now more likely 
> that everyone is on the version upgrade treadmill. Whether schools should have 
> the same budgetary priorities as businesses is another discussion to be had.

Yeah, I'm aware of this and largely agree.  However, governments
generally turn a blind eye to their own slow pace, leading to laughable
situations such as the DOS one you mentioned.  It's a lot easier for
schools to say "well, we tried" than to say "no, we're not going to
teach that at all".

Also, one aspect I did not bring up is that by standardizing the
platform you can to a large extent standardize the curriculum built on
that platform.  This is very attractive at the scale of most educational
institutions; by forcing the exact same tools for all students, it
eliminates another potential cause for one student to be performing
better or worse than another.

Never mind that a mandatory upgrade from Microsoft would flush all that
down the drain...

> Personally, I welcome the single-board computer trend because it disrupts that 
> upgrade treadmill, usually introduces Free Software, shows people that you can 
> do the same with much less (and at much less cost), and allows for a broader 
> range of experiences that would probably serve everybody better than a rigid 
> training programme for software the children may never use again (especially 
> in light of changes in the way computing is done, thanks to a wider range of 
> devices being used than was traditionally the case).

100% agreed.  This is partially why I suggested making exposure to and
work with SBCs mandatory for students on technical tracks -- they gain
exposure to the type of technology they will be working with in the IoT,
and at the same time they realise only a small portion of the computers
in existence run Microsoft products.

- -- 
Timothy Pearson
Raptor Engineering
+1 (415) 727-8645 (direct line)
+1 (512) 690-0200 (switchboard)
Version: GnuPG v1.4.11 (GNU/Linux)
Comment: Using GnuPG with Mozilla -


More information about the Discussion mailing list