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Edited what's to like about Linux

Kenneth John Odle 2 years ago
  1. 34


@ -106,7 +106,7 @@
All contents \copyright2021 Kenneth John Odle
All contents \copyright2022 Kenneth John Odle
Although this is now in your hands, and it's also on the web, so if you really wanted to steal this, I've made it pretty darn easy. I can't imagine why anyone would want to, though. You don't need to, however, since this is licenced under a CC BY-NA-SA 4.0 Creative Commons license. More information is at \href{}{}. \includegraphics[scale=0.35]{ncsa4-0}
@ -336,7 +336,7 @@ Despite all my prattling on about the many advantages the command line has for y
\chapter{Make Life Easier with bash Aliases}
\includegraphics[scale=0.8]{intermediate}\footnote{Why is this here? See the chapter ``What's to Like About Linux?'' later on in this issue.}
@ -459,6 +459,36 @@ Because a thing seems difficult for you, do not think it impossible for anyone t
When I first thought about doing the second issue of this zine, I thought it would be really cool if I included some sort of key to any tutorial that I include, that tells you if this is a beginner level tutorial, an intermediate level tutorial, or an advanced level tutorial. If you peek at the beginning of chapter three, you'll see a button that looks like this:
\noindent \includegraphics[scale=0.8]{intermediate}
\noindent Like it? I have a couple more:
\noindent \includegraphics[scale=0.8]{beginner} \hspace{1cm}
\noindent But the more I thought about it, the more I began to think that this is \textbf{not} a good idea. There are a couple of reasons for this.
First, who am \textit{I} to decide if something is beginner, intermediate, or advanced level, especially when it comes to computers? I'm not an expert in all things computers, much less all things Linux. The most I can say is that ``Oh, yeah, this is one of the first things I learned how to do'' which \textit{implies} that it's a beginner level. But it might not be. It's just where I started. Somebody else might start somewhere else, in a place that I didn't bother to get around to for years, and which I tend to think of as intermediate or advanced level. But to them, it's where they started, and so they'll also think of it as beginner level. LaTeX has been around for a long time, but it always seemed very advanced to me. As it turns out, it's not difficult to learn. (Although like most things, learning a thing and mastering a thing are very different activities.) Things can be difficult if you don't have the proper tools for them, but does that mean they're advanced?
Second, these words are highly contextual. What does ``beginner'' even mean? Someone who's just sat down to a computer for the first time in their life? Or someone who's been working on computers since they were ten years old, but are just now beginning to learn LaTeX? These words are easier to define in other areas, such as sports or music, where you have to learn to skate before you can play hockey, and you have to learn scales and chords before you can play music. Computers are the great levelers of walls and fences, provided, of course, that you have access to one.
Third, people may self-select out of things. Many years ago, I taught computer classes at my local community education center.\footnote{One of the things I learned is that is a right way and a wrong way to teach people how to use computers. I should write about that sometime.} It was a tremendous amount of fun, both for me and my students, who came from all walks of life.\footnote{A bit of a clichè that, I know. But I can't think of a better phrase.} They were \textit{occassionally} intimidated by certain things, but for the most part, they were eager to learn as much as they could.
The class was extremely inexpensive, but it was rarely ever full, which made me wonder why more people didn't take this class. There are two answers here. First, this was the early 90s and a lot of people didn't even have computers at home, so what would be the point for them? (You don't need a car if you have no place to go.) Second, a lot of people were terribly intimidated by computers, because they thought you had to be really smart to use them. So they self-selected out of something they were perfectly capable of learning because they thought it was too advanced for them.\footnote{People are really afraid of making mistakes and looking stupid, but that's a by-product of our public education industrial complex. You can't learn \textit{anything} without making mistakes. In fact, people are truly experts about things often point out that they learn as much or more from their mistakes than they do from their successes. But we have turned making mistakes into something to be ashamed of, rather than something which will help us learn and understand things.} Let's encourage people to self-select \textit{in}, rather than out, because once they get here they'll have a lot of fun. Let's not be gatekeepers.
Fourth, it implies that there is a hierarchy, which I hate. There are many ways in. Because math is so strongly allied to computer science, we tend to view learning about computers as hierarchical as well. \footnote{I think this is one of the reasons that most people aren't good at math and don't like math. Sure, you need to know \textit{some} algebra to do geometry, but you don't need to be an algebra expert. If you really like geometry, and are encouraged to apply yourself to it, you'll eventually learn all the algebra you need. The same is true of trigonometry and even calculus. You don't need to become an expert in those earlier forms of math; you only have to become good enough at them to move on to the next step. People who write math curricula should take note, but they won't.} But that just isn't the case. I started learning how to write BASIC when I was in sixth grade because that's all that was available to us. But basic BASIC is no different than basic Fortran, or basic Cobol, really. The only difference is that BASIC is fairly limited in scope, which was, sadly, all that was deemed appropriate for kids. It's like giving kids little fake plastic tools when they really want to build something. Give kids real tools and let them experiment with them and figure out how they work. But we never do that.\footnote{This is, coincidentally, the same sort of thinking that doesn't like sex education, despite the many studies that have shown, conclusively and repeatedly, that when kids have access to high-quality, non-biased sex education, the rates of teen pregnancy and teen STDs decrease, often dramatically.}
\section{What I Learned About \LaTeX{} While Creating This Issue}