Derek Keats, who I greatly respect and admire, responded to my earlier post with this reply:
There was recently found in South Africa a child that had grown up
locked in a nearly dark cave. The child never experienced the light, and
would only try to speak in darkness. The child did not know about or
care about freedom or school or education or life outside the cave. That
does not mean that we should not.
There were many people in SA during Apartheid who did not know what
freedom meant. They only wanted food and a place to live. They knew
about oppression, but had no notion of what freedom would mean, and
mostly probably did not care that much about its nuances.
Should we then say that freedom should not matter to them because they
have more pressing needs and don’t care about the nuances?
In paraphrasing John Adams, I think you have missed the point that he
was making because it was highly context specific. We could miss even
more context by citing “of right ought to be, free and independent”. Do
you really believe that if John Adams and his colleagues had said lets
fight now and worry about freedom later, or that most people living in
the Colonies did not understand or care about freedom, that America
would be free? We are not really talking semantics when we talk about
Adams also said “Liberty cannot be preserved without a general
knowledge among the people.” But he did not say lets wait until
everyone has a general knowledge before we seek freedom.
Anyway, maybe you are right. Maybe freedom is not important. Maybe its
OK to leave it for the next generation to sort it out. Maybe thats not
part of our responsibility at all.
My response, which I managed to refrain from posting back to the listserv (which is supposed to be discussing something else):
Of course principles are important. I believe the key message of Sen’s Development as Freedom is that freedom is the primary means of development, as well as the end of development. I firmly believe this. Leaving the consideration of freedom and other core principles til the very end is like waiting until the very end of building educational materials to create the assessments. Some things just have to be done at the beginning to be done right….
> Should we then say that freedom should not matter to them because they
> have more pressing needs and don’t care about the nuances?
We should not think about freedom and other core principles as binary – either fully developed or completely absent. Everyone involved in the listserv believes in freedom as a core principle, which is why we are all making our materials available without cost and in forms that can be adapted and reused. Freedom matters deeply to everyone in the forum; let’s not say it doesn’t. The finer nuances – for example, whether or not authors should use the noncommercial clause of the CC licenses – will work themselves out over time. And let us also remember that, when a worldwide group of people have agreed to give their materials away at no cost and let people adapt and reuse those adapted materials, then the matter of whether or not commercialization of those materials is permitted *is* a nuance.
> In paraphrasing John Adams, I think you have missed the point that he
> was making because it was highly context specific. We could miss even
> more context by citing “of right ought to be, free and independent”. Do
> you really believe that if John Adams and his colleagues had said lets
> fight now and worry about freedom later, or that most people living in
> the Colonies did not understand or care about freedom, that America
> would be free? We are not really talking semantics when we talk about
No, I don’t believe these things. And neither does anyone on this list believe that they can build educational materials now and worry about freedom later. That’s why everyone is using a CC or FDL or similar license for the materials they develop – we’re all thinking and worrying about freedom right now.
> Adams also said “Liberty cannot be preserved without a general
> knowledge among the people.” But he did not say lets wait until
> everyone has a general knowledge before we seek freedom.
Yes, and the same with Sen… Freedom is the primary means for, as well as the end of, development. I think everyone on the list would agree with that.
The place some people on the list may *dis*agree with you is in your specific definition of freedom.
At a high level – make it no cost, give people permission to modify and reuse my work – everyone agrees. Many people, in fact, are more or less dedicating their lives to the work, so let’s not suggest that they are somehow leaving freedom as an afterthought. In the specific case of “let others make money from my work,” some people disagree as to whether or not this is the best path forward. And while you can attempt to argue it from principles, it is an empirical question. Time will tell us. Either the NC-licensed material will be left behind and forgotten, or it won’t.
You will note, by the way, that I am not one of the people who disagrees with you, and that all my own materials plus many other courses on USU OCW use CC By-SA (the only OCW worldwide to do so). I just differ in my particular manner of evangelism… I believe that the move from full (C) to something like By-NC-SA to something like CC By-SA is evolutionary, and that the rest of the world will make it there eventually. It’s my experience that pushing people tends to make the process take longer rather than go faster.
For all I know, but the time the world at large gets to CC By-SA I may have moved on to CC By or even to dedication to the Public Domain. I really don’t seriously expect anyone else to “keep pace” with me. I’m an explorer, and the path I take may not be optimal. I completely understand and respect those who take a “wait and see” attitude.
> Anyway, maybe you are right. Maybe freedom is not important. Maybe its
> OK to leave it for the next generation to sort it out. Maybe thats not
> part of our responsibility at all.
Again, freedom isn’t binary. To say that something licensed CC By-NC-SA isn’t free, and that people who use the CC By-NC-SA license don’t care about freedom, is misleading at best and does nothing to build the feeling of community so important to the success of the movement. You’re perfectly within your rights to say that it doesn’t fit ~your~ specific definition of freedom. But telling other people that their definition of freedom is wrong makes for neither good feelings nor progress. It’s the same divisive approach that led Raymond and and others to propose “open source” as a pragmatic, benefits-grounded alternative to the often offensive rhetoric of free software. From the History of OSI (http://opensource.org/history):
The conferees decided it was time to dump the moralizing and confrontational attitude that had been associated with “free software” in the past and sell the idea strictly on the same pragmatic, business-case grounds that had motivated Netscape. They brainstormed about tactics and a new label. ‘Open source’, contributed by Chris Peterson, was the best thing they came up with…. (At a later conference) the participants voted to promote the use of the term ‘open source’, and agreed to adopt with it the new rhetoric of pragmatism and market-friendliness that Raymond had been developing.
While it finally led to mainstream adoption of open source or free software, the move also created one of the classic online wars; namely that between “free” and “open.” It would be a pity if the OER world descended into two distinct vi/Emacs, KDE/Gnome, free/open factions continually at war with one another. Based on the number of times the issue comes up on this listserv, however, that appears to be where we are heading.
Since the majority of folks in the OER world seem perfectly content, I believe it is up to the anti-NC clause folks to prevent the split from happening – to stay at home, to continue to participate in the community. Please don’t misunderstand; I’m not suggesting that anyone abandon their principles; I’m just suggesting that we all practice some ~patience.~ If abandoning the NC clause turns out to be the “best” path empirically, the rest of the OER world will follow. In the mean time, let’s not do anything to offend, or alienate, or otherwise deter the steady, evolutionary progress of our community.
PS Perhaps we need a Educational Productivity Pledge along the lines of the following: Every time you feel tempted to engage in a discussion about free/libre issues, create some educational materials instead. Imagine where we might be now if we could all find the strength of character to adhere to such a pledge. From now on I will follow this pledge, and highlight here on my blog materials that are the result of my adherence.