The personality of a Linux-loving teen

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At my public library job I work in Takoma Park, Maryland, I talk with several hundred youth every week. I try to boost their curiosity, guide them in their wonderings and steer them to interesting and useful web sites. I try to point them in a direction where they'll encounter creative fulfillment and career success, while at the same time finding a meaningful role for themselves in this world.

A few years ago I was humbled to receive a citywide community service award for my work mentoring youth.

It's a fascinating challenge choosing just the right words to say to a youth who you might see just twice a week for three minutes. I relish that challenge as an outside-of-school educator. I try to plant seeds in these students' minds that they'll either water or not water.

The other day I caught myself saying to a graduating 8th grade student, “When you get to high school, look around to find students who love Linux. These will be some of the smartest and most creative students at your school.”

But wait a minute, is it true that the smartest and most creative students in a school are the ones who love Linux? It's possible that my friendly counseling advice might be false. Maybe Linux-loving students are not in the upper echelons of their school. The counseling advice I was giving was based on a hunch, not on any data or conclusive facts.

Here is some of the foundation of my thinking. Just as vegetarian teens usually have a higher consciousness of food, ecology and social justice matters in the world, so too do Linux-loving teens generally have a higher consciousness about technology matters. They're more aware about the world and their role in the world. These are the teens who love visiting makerspaces and maker faires. They're the one's bending the world to their liking rather than bending themselves to fit the world. They're the tinkerers. They're the ones who see things differently, the restless ones, the ones with no respect with the status quo, the ones who bring new initiatives to life. They're the with ones unbridled optimism and contagious hopefulness.

A few years ago a middle school student walked up to me and offered to help me refurbish computers with Linux to deliver to students who don't have a computer to use at home. (I've been doing that kind of digital divide work for a while.)  When I saw how much he already knew, I asked him, "Did one of your parents or relatives introduce you to Linux?” He replied, “No, I taught myself a lot of open source things from the web. It's something I'm interested in."

This same youth is actively involved as a student leader in several other initiatives in town. He's chosen to have an active role in both his local community and in the world community. I credit his parents with raising such a stellar young man, and I credit the youth for his bold vision of how he chooses to live his life.

Is he a typical Linux-loving teen? I don't know. He might be. This would be a ripe topic for someone's doctoral dissertation. My hunch? He's a typical Linux-loving teen.

Smiling librarian standing in front of bookcase
Phil Shapiro has been an educator, teaching students from pre-school to graduate school for the past 35 years. He currently works at a public library in the Washington, DC area, helping youth and adults use their public Linux stations.


My 14yo son is a Linux-loving teen (he came by it from home having been dragged to MakerFaires & Linux fests since before he could say his ABCs), but he is a B- student. He is a tinkerer, problem-solver, experimenter; but software anarchists and independent thinkers are not typically rewarded with good grades in the rural US. He continues to evangelize, usually to his gaming friends; but, he has given up explaining to teachers that there is *free* software that does everything that MS Office does.

I do understand how difficult it is to educate people, especially teachers and school administration on Open Source. It truly is something they honestly "don't have time for" or do not see why anyone would need to give away software.
It really would help promote Open Source by setting up a demo at his school or a local library. This could be both with a projector and a Linux laptop running any open source program he would like to present. There are plenty of opportunities for such activities. Do it now while he is still there or you'll wish you did after he graduates. Plus, the experience can be added to his resume for his college application.
If there is no Linux User Group in his area, he could even set one up and start having monthly meetings.

In reply to by jensedhome (not verified)

I'd like to say just one thing; nurture and praise your son's interest in open source and Linux, it will one day get him a lot in return, a job for instance. He will find other ways in sharing his interest, evangelize Linux and open source, not everyone is open to it.

In reply to by jensedhome (not verified)

I am a retired teacher and volunteering at my old school's library working on a small network that streams English videos (with subtitles) to help the students pick up English as well as to facilitate student work like the editing and printing of assignments and projects. All the PCs, notebooks and netbooks there run Linux.

99% of the time, Linux covers all the needs of the students, video streaming included. Some complained at the start not having Windows or MS Office but with the evolution of Libreoffice and now the addition of Kingsoft Office to the desktop, the complaints have pretty much reached zero.

There is one student who comes in occasionally to strike up a conversation with me about Linux and, judging from his work he is pretty adept with multimedia. How good is he academically? I never really asked. But, he does look pretty smart to me and active within the school's curriculum.

I believe there is a bottom line so to say for a student who is good with Linux - not at the very top (cause such a student generally works and studies hard with little time left for anything else) but above average possibly because he spends much of his mental juice and time on things that interest him - in other words, Linux.

In reply to by jensedhome (not verified)

Well, I'm 13 and am very interested in GNU/Linux, as well as the free software movement. I actually sold my previous laptop via ebay in order to purchase a computer with a free BIOS, thanks to

I currently use 100% free software on all of my devices, and I'm in the middle of a book on C; I've learnt Python, but most free software projects are in C, therefore to contribute as much as possible C seems to be the way to go.

My two kids use Linux only because that's what I give them. I don't know if they are "Linux Loving", what I do know is that they use it and have fun with the applications and games.

Maybe it will turn to curiosity and investigation. They know that there's nothing they can do that can't be fixed, so they feel free to play.

We shall see. :^)

I got an intro to ubuntu after my brother installed it with help of a freind, this was after Windows was cracked down by malware.
I have now got familiar with it and reading a tutorial on its command, it sure will be a useful skill even though am not intending to be a sysadmn.

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