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Aaron Swartz, Unschooler, is Vindicated

February14
Aaron Swartz

Aaron Swartz

Journal Storage, JSTOR, the data base that Unschooler and Internet Activist had hacked into and “liberated” their whole library of scholarly journal articles, on Wednesday, January 13, 2013, announced that it would open its archives of 1,200 journals for the public to read for free.

But Aaron Swartz did not live to see this happen. He had committed suicide, depressed over his pending prosecution for taking the scholarly journal articles, and liberating them for the public to read. He was just 26 years old when he hung himself on January 11th this year.

While Aaron’s name may not be familiar to you, the products he worked on are very familiar. He is the creator of “RSS,” the news feed that brings you data as it is created from the sources that set it up so you can do this. You can, for example, use RSS to always receive articles in this blog as they are posted.

Aaron also co-founded Reddit, a discussion board where topics and best answers are voted on by its members, the best winding up at the top.

As an unschooler, Aaron was self-taught. He imagined a world where people could teach themselves from the very best information to be had. But that was the problem: while the internet is jam packed with opinions, most are not backed with research, including this one, scholarly papers were walled behind memberships and fees so high that only the richest could afford to get access. 10 cents a page may not sound like much, but we’re not talking indefinitely long website pages, more like typed, double-spaced paper pages, research that might be called small books. Much of this research is paid for by public grants.

Now, I’ve been asked many times to help out some student researching homeschooling, and early on I was glad to do so. I would ask to have a copy when the paper was done, but most never sent me a copy. I now ask students to first do their homework and read my site and its links first to get their answers. If I haven’t already answered their questions, then I would be glad to clarify. My reaction is not unique among homeschoolers. We’d like to see the research results, and not have them hidden buried deep in some exclusive database. Oh, and while you are at it, let’s free all research so that others who need to learn can read up, too… on any topic!

Our family, too, had a young, depressed young man kill himself back in 2010, when he was threatened with jail time. His parents pleaded to try to get help for his mental problems, but the law didn’t give a damn for the mentally depressed 21 year old. Instead the police bullied and tormented him, and not seeing any way out, he chose suicide. For both these young men, the crimes they committed were not death penalty crimes, not even life sentences, but the result was as if they were.

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Here are some of the resources that provide background on this article. I may extend it later on. All I have time for today.

Internet Activist, a Creator of RSS, Is Dead at 26, Apparently a Suicide – By John Schwartz, January 12, 2013  – At 14, Mr. Swartz helped create RSS, the nearly ubiquitous tool that allows users to subscribe to online information.

Petition to remove prosecutor in Aaron Swartz case up for White House response – Published: 14 February, 2013 – A petition to the White House requesting the removal of Aaron Swartz’s prosecutor before his death has surpassed 25,000 signatures – which means the Obama administration must reply. It comes one month after the internet activist committed suicide.

Aaron Swartz’ Weblog – Aaron Swartz is the founder of Demand Progress, which launched the campaign against the Internet censorship bills (SOPA/PIPA) and now has over a million members. He is also a Contributing Editor to The Baffler and on the Council of Advisors to The Rules.

Why Aaron Mattered – By Lauren Wales, 02/01/2013  – As I listen to the news reports about Aaron’s life, so many of them seem to miss something key to his work: the unschooler understanding that knowledge is free, yes, but it means nothing if it is not implemented and shared.

Unschooler Aaron Swartz Dies at Age 26 – By Peter Kowalke, 01/12/2013 – Aaron and I briefly collaborated in 1999 on a learning exchange that we intended to turn into a college for unschoolers. But Aaron was too young, still with a squeaky voice, and I ended up making the Grown Without Schooling documentary instead.

Anonymous Hijacks Federal Website Over Aaron Swartz Suicide – By Matthew Larotonda | ABC News Blogs – Sat, Jan 26, 2013 – The lengthy essay largely mirrors previous demands from Anonymous, but this time the group also cited the recent suicide of Reddit co-founder and activist Aaron Swartz as has having “crossed a line” for their organization. Swartz was facing up to 35 years in prison on computer fraud charges.

Aaron Swartz’s Girlfriend Explains ‘Why Aaron Died’ – By Lorenzo Franceschi-Bicchierai, Feb 05, 2013 – “I believe that Aaron’s death was caused by a criminal justice system that prioritizes power over mercy, vengeance over justice; a system that punishes innocent people for trying to prove their innocence instead of accepting plea deals that mark them as criminals in perpetuity; a system where incentives and power structures align for prosecutors to destroy the life of an innovator like Aaron in the pursuit of their own ambitions.”

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