This entire rant is based on the situation of computer education in Italy, I’d love to hear what it is like in your country.
So, computers are part of our everyday life (really? is that true for everyone?), so maybe we better teach something about it in school! It goes like this, you take the little child or even adult, put them front of a computer and teach them how to write letters, make spreadsheet and if they are lucky databases and some programming.
Little details: Computers will have Microsoft Windows installed, the other task will be accomplished with Microsoft Office, Microsoft Access and Microsoft Visual Basic.
Other little details: Nothing will be taught at all! The students will only be trained on the basics of using this particular software products (teaching about databases and programming this way is particularly freaky and damaging to the students) and usually a different setup will scare the students to hell.
My personal experience is fresh, 2 years ago I still went to high school and I was in a school which claimed to have economic/programming orientation.
The first 2 years we were taught the fine art of creating invoices with Microsoft Excel, then the fun came. 3rd/4th/5th years were about programming and db (along with some more spreadsheet, for those who were not trained enough yet).
At first it was all nice and fine, flow charts, concepts of software design and some Pascal. Then the beast came, Microsoft Visual Basic! Microsoft Visual Basic has 2 mayor problems: everything is unportable, is too clicky and draggy for such an unexperienced audience to understand anything.
So, no flow charts anymore, no design. The whole year was about dragging this here, changing the colour of widgets and so on. You now know why interface in the Windows world are sucky!
Then db came, and theory was pretty good (but too short for uneducated audience, my mates couldn’t understand much of it). Conceptual design, logical design… implementation! No SQL? You need no friggin’ SQL! You can just use some wizard from Microsoft Access! Again the problem is the same, what you learn cannot be applied elsewhere.
What are the effects on the market? You create bots that can only use certain software packages, you can bet what they’ll choose when they are purchasing their own system.
The software market is already one of the least fair and balanced, and influencing so strongly the purchasing decisions of the current generation and those to come is not going to help.
I’m sure some companies would pay to have such an unfair, nation-wide advantage! Uh wait a second..nah that cannot be it!
So, what could be done about it? Well abolish this kind of training! Have you ever been taught at school how to wire your house or how to repair a TV set? Why should you be trained how to make an invoice with a particular software package?Any other solution will end up favouring someone in the end (open source groups making no exception).
Information Technology can do much for education however! Schools can set up websites (universally accessible) to lookup for informations, maybe download lessons or read communications that you may miss otherwise.
Every school may have some browser-kiosk with easy access to wikipedia for students, maybe also to assist the teacher in his or her lessons.