Educational Philosophy: The Default State is Free

I thought it might be interesting to run a series on some of the core tenets of my educational philosophy.

It is my contention that as educators, we have a responsibility to collaborate with colleagues to better our craft.  Taken to its logical conclusion, this suggests to me that the work that we create in our professional capacity should be shared among colleagues and students, for the purpose of their education, without cost.  In other words, when it comes to the work that we do, free should be the default condition.  

Last weekend I spent a few moments in conversation with a woman who teaches in another Long Island district.  During the conversation, she explained her idea of creating some sort of review website for one of our state exams, and declaimed that she would charge money for access.  “I am sick of teachers giving it away for free!”, was the main justification that she gave voice to.  I have no problem with her holding this opinion.  I also have no interest in paying to use her site for my students.  

I think my major issue with disallowing the use of the materials that I make to be used freely for education stems from the nature of those materials.  In education, as in seemingly all other areas of human ideas, there really seems to be very little of substance that comes along which is completely new.  The ideas for materials that I have are based on ones that came before them, and those on ones before, and so on.  How can I then ethically not put the variations that I develop into the public domain?  To do otherwise would seem to suggest that my particular modifications are somehow more valuable than the ones that they were based on.  This is not a judgement that I am comfortable making.  

The end result being that everything that I create for use in my classes is available on the internet to anyone who wants to use it in their own teaching or learning.  Thanks to modern conceptions of copyright law like Creative Commons, I can even make sure that the variations of the works that I create are offered under similar terms.