Tomorrow starts another semester. In preparation for the oncoming hours of study and various activities related to my dissertation, I decided to clean out the email and finally read the backlogged copies of scholarly news I ignored over holiday.
I opened the most recent one: Inside Higher Ed: Parents, Tuition and Grades / Academe Reacts to Aaron Swartz’s Suicide – January 14, 2013
I just stared. That is the extent of it. Just staring at my laptop. One thing I have learned along the road to becoming educated is that the more aware I am, the angrier I am. Hence the adage: ignorance is bliss. This man died because he was smarter than people could see. They misunderstood the message in his work and threatened his freedom because they simply did not understand. Information is not to be coveted, but to be shared. That was the whole point – the whole point of his activism!
We just lost an intelligent ally. He made the leaps in thought his prosecutors apparently could not make. They were blinded by the laws designed to prosecute malicious Internet criminals, not thinkers. Aaron did not want the gain for himself. He was promoting awareness and open distribution of knowledge.
His activism has been always something I have loved to see in action. And now I don’t get to see the next chapter. It is now a book with missing pages. Someone can write another ending, but it will still be missing something.
I am saddened by this. Aaron’s death. The way institutions for education treat creative thinkers. The way our democracy responds to freedom differently when on the Internet. And finally how education is still very limited to the elite few.
For these reasons, and perhaps for many more I will discover later, I am making a decision today to provide PDFs (or whatever the future evolution) of my publications, current and future, openly to anyone who would like copies. My research is not for myself. It is done for the masses. I just ask for credit where credit is due.
By coveting our knowledge, we will stunt our growth as a people. The movement of several higher education institutions and other groups to offer free courses excites me. It excites me beyond belief. I love learning and always have and to have everyone be able to learn as I – no, even better than I have – is absolutely encouraging.
For more information about Aaron, see the wikipedia page about him. Also, while there, consider writing an article or editing one. Contribute to the collective. (See also Cognitive Surplus, or at the moment, the skim NYT review for a brief overview).