Recently, a school teacher named Karen in the Austin Independent School District confiscated what she thought were copies of illegal software but were actually Linux CDs. She then wrote an angry email to Ken Starks (aka, Helios), who then published the email and wrote back his own angry response. At least that’s what Ken Starks would have you believe happened.
I’m annoyed that the Linux community is getting on this guy’s side, and he’s trying to make off like a hero. I even question the authenticity of the email. I believe it’s either (depending on how cynical you want to get) a rewrite of an actual email for extra dramatic effect, a completely fabricated email referencing an actual event, or a completely fabricated email referencing an event that never even happened but one that Ken Starks considers realistic or plausible.
Let’s say—for argument’s sake, since I have no proof yet that this is a hoax—that the email is authentic and that the incident actually did happen. If that’s the case, Ken Starks’ blog post does not put the Linux community in a good light at all.
If the teacher’s email is authentic, it’s still not ethical for Starks to publish without the author’s consent what would otherwise be a private exchange, especially for the purpose of public ridicule.
More importantly, Starks does go on to ridicule the teacher in question and offer her personal insults as well. Here are some highlights:
You should be ashamed of yourself for putting into print such none sense [sic].
The fact that you seem to believe that Microsoft is the end all and be-all is actually funny in a sad sort of way. Then again, being a good NEA member, you would spout the Union line.
A dedicated School Teacher would recognize that fact and lobby for the change to Free Open Source Software and let the money formally spent on MS bindware be used on our kids.
A teacher who cared about her students would do that.
Now this teacher—if this incident really did happen, and if she wrote that actual email to Starks—is certainly extremely misinformed. Linux CDs are not illegal, and software can be free. It’s possible that “Aaron” was being disruptive but well-intentioned, and she was a bit harsh to the boy. However, if Starks really wanted to inform her and have her change and get educated, he should have written a kinder reply. His vitriol serves only to alienate her and tarnish the image of Linux communities.
To Karen, if this incident really did happen, and if your email did actually get published without your consent for the purposes of public ridicule, I apologize on behalf of the parts of the Linux community that will let me. You didn’t know that what that student was doing was perfectly legal, and you might have overreacted, but you probably thought at that time that what you were doing was right. If Starks hasn’t totally turned you off to open source software, I’d invite you to explore it yourself some time. It is perfectly legal and cost-free.
P.S. I find it disturbing that this is starting to appear not just on Digg and Slashdot but as actual news stories on tech websites when it’s clear that the only source remains Starks’ blog post. There is currently no outside verification whatsoever that the incident occurred or that this Karen (no last name) teacher actually sent that email to Starks.