Liberate educational content

We (the undersigned) have a simple, deeply powerful suggestion: philanthropists should "liberate" the best educational content.  Buy or commission truly excellent content, aimed at school children (K-12), then post it online for free.  Let children reap the rewards of your generosity forever.  Just think: top-grade textbooks about everything, free to everyone online; free, in-depth, expert-designed educational software; free, high-quality educational videos.

Just imagine the possibilities of good this would do for the whole world.

Isn't this already happening?  No.  Most educational content you find for free online lacks either detail or high quality.  But we want the best for our children: for that, we still must and do pay.  There is not much truly excellent free educational content online.

Why not?  We do not know.  Perhaps because those who create and support educational content generally view the Internet either as a dangerous competitor or as an adolescent free-for-all.  Perhaps.  But also think of the Internet as an amazingly efficient and cheap distribution mechanism.  You (philanthropists) can single-handedly use it to provide curricula to the entire world, for free.  You choose the type of content, the subject, the grade level, the authors, everything.  You need not ask anyone's permission.  If you spend the money, content will appear online--and millions of children will benefit.  It is up to you!

Let us put this in perspective.  Back in 1960, if a billionaire wanted to give the best possible textbook to every child in the world, that would have been too costly even for the richest billionaire.  But no longer.  Even those with small fortunes can provide a textbook (etc.) to everyone with Internet access--hundreds of millions of children.  Philanthropists, you could do this.

You have been spending millions of dollars annually to improve education, but we believe you have largely ignored this key opportunity.  Sometimes the simplest ways are the best.  If you want to answer, "But the problems with U.S. schools do not have to do with our textbooks or content," we might agree with you.  Perhaps it has to do with teachers being low-paid, or parents not being involved, or something else.  We do not offer an answer to that.

But this opportunity is "low-hanging fruit."  High-quality, free content undeniably and directly benefits the world, the entire world, through the magic of the Internet.  Educational content gives knowledge to children.  Why not pay for it?  What is stopping you?  After all, it is not only collective "Web 2.0" efforts that can liberate content.  You have a fantastic mechanism for distributing free curricula to virtually every school child in the U.S., and the whole world can benefit, to boot.  Why not use it?

Note that this petition began life with this blog post and follow-up info will be posted on SharedKnowing.

Dear Philanthropist,

We (the undersigned) have a simple, deeply powerful suggestion: philanthropists should "liberate" the best educational content.  Buy or commission truly excellent content, aimed at school children (K-12), then post it online for free.  Let children reap the rewards of your generosity forever.  Just think: top-grade textbooks about everything, free to everyone online; free, in-depth, expert-designed educational software; free, high-quality educational videos.

Just imagine the possibilities of good this would do for the whole world.

Isn't this already happening?  No.  Most educational content you find for free online lacks either detail or high quality.  But we want the best for our children: for that, we still must and do pay.  There is not much truly excellent free educational content online.

Why not?  We do not know.  Perhaps because those who create and support educational content generally view the Internet either as a dangerous competitor or as an adolescent free-for-all.  Perhaps.  But also think of the Internet as an amazingly efficient and cheap distribution mechanism.  You (philanthropists) can single-handedly use it to provide curricula to the entire world, for free.  You choose the type of content, the subject, the grade level, the authors, everything.  You need not ask anyone's permission.  If you spend the money, content will appear online--and millions of children will benefit.  It is up to you!

Let us put this in perspective.  Back in 1960, if a billionaire wanted to give the best possible textbook to every child in the world, that would have been too costly even for the richest billionaire.  But no longer.  Even those with small fortunes can provide a textbook (etc.) to everyone with Internet access--hundreds of millions of children.  Philanthropists, you could do this.

You have been spending millions of dollars annually to improve education, but we believe you have largely ignored this key opportunity.  Sometimes the simplest ways are the best.  If you want to answer, "But the problems with U.S. schools do not have to do with our textbooks or content," we might agree with you.  Perhaps it has to do with teachers being low-paid, or parents not being involved, or something else.  We do not offer an answer to that.

But this opportunity is "low-hanging fruit."  High-quality, free content undeniably and directly benefits the world, the entire world, through the magic of the Internet.  Educational content gives knowledge to children.  Why not pay for it?  What is stopping you?  After all, it is not only collective "Web 2.0" efforts that can liberate content.  You have a fantastic mechanism for distributing free curricula to virtually every school child in the U.S., and the whole world can benefit, to boot.  Why not use it?

Note that this petition began life with this blog post and follow-up info will be posted on SharedKnowing.

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