Lost Promise

Last week, I wrote a HEM News & Commentary post:  Aaron Swartz – Prodigy and Freedom Fighter Dies. I've met so many kids in the homeschooling community who could be Aaron.  I know they're in the schools too, but the particular gifts these kids have are easier to spot when homeschooling. Kids leave or never enter the schools because the way things stand in the classrooms often holds their dreams back.  Sometimes it's by bullying and sometimes it's just because they can't find the teacher, mentor or friend who can understand or share their gnarly thoughts.  It's generally easier when they homeschool. 

With his parents' guidance in the Chicago area, Aaron flew (literally) with the endless opportunities opened to him.  What promise he had while reviewing his incredible life trail pursuing internet freedoms, open access information and challenging the status quo.  

14 year old Aaron Swartz with Lawrence Lessig

From FreeSpeech.org 

As a teenager, Swartz helped develop RSS, revolutionizing how people use the Internet, going on to co-own Reddit, now one of the world’s most popular sites. He was also a key architect of Creative Commons and an organizer of the grassroots movement to defeat the controversial House Internet censorship bill, the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), and the Senate bill, the PROTECT IP Act (PIPA). 

A brilliant mind endowed with a visionary heart.  After the seemingly hopeless internet censorship bills [SOPA/PIPA] battle against powerful leaders lobbyists, Aaron helped create Demand Progress, which promotes grassroots lobbying.  I like the idea of keeping the internet free and Aaron's work to support that access is much appreciated by me.  Mixed in with that, I liked his ornery sense of humor.

Shortly before Aaron started homeschooling, our family started our homeschooling adventure in the mid-90's. We found all sorts of inventive ways to use the brand new internet connections without killing our budget from long distance phone charges. Homeschoolers were connecting on the World Wide Web.  The biggest forum groups on AOL and Compuserve tended to be homeschooling networks, because homeschooling minds can be that curious – always seeking.  There were free and fantastic resources available across the web.  Our family participated in a Kids as Global Scientists program, along with Journey North.  We searched for fun resources and we found them.  

That shouldn't change and if the young adults and others (like me) would want to honor Aaron's memory and his determination, we should make sure it doesn't change.

Furthermore, Aaron's partner, Taren Stinebrickner-Kauffman, discussed the senseless prosecution and persecution of Aaron and others in this country:

 Why does someone like Steve Heymann have the power to do this, unbridled power? Why would you charge somebody with up to 35 years in prison if you actually think that all they deserve is six months, as the plea deal suggested that? And this happens to people every day in our system, and most of them have many fewer resources than Aaron and much less support, and don’t have the option necessarily even of considering hiring a lawyer and going to trial over the course of two years, and are forced to take the plea deals when they’re not guilty or when the plea deals are completely unjust. And I think that we need—we need broad criminal justice reform in this country. We incarcerate more people per capita than any other country in the world, and we don’t see lower crime rates because of it. There’s—there’s justice, and then there’s justice. And right now, we’re not—our system does not promote justice. Our system is punitive. Our system is Kafkaesque. Our system is unfair. And Aaron and millions of other people suffer because of it.

Excellent points that were made in deep grief with a fight back solution. Here's part of the answer from Demand Progress:

1) Representative Zoe Lofgren has introduced what's been named  "Aaron's Law."  It would fix a key part of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA), which is one of the statutes under which Aaron was indicted. We need to pass Aaron's Law AND further amend the CFAA.

2) Additionally, we asked Congressman Darrell Issa — who controls the powerful Oversight Committee — to open an investigation into prosecutorial misconduct in Aaron's case. Amazingly, he's already responded and is dispatching a staffer to investigate the U.S. Attorney who was pressing charges against Aaron. 

Issa also said this below from The Hill:

“We're looking at the real question of open government,” Issa said. “Has the government or even MIT been holding back materials that the public has a right to know?”

Issa said he wanted to make sure “that what is paid for is as widely available as possible to the American people.”

Many materials on JSTOR are funded by public universities or government research grants. Subscriptions to JSTOR cost thousands of dollars.

The Taren Stinebrickner-Kauffman interview above is from Democracy Now.  A couple of my kids convinced me to watch Amy Goodman (sometimes).  She doesn't drive me any crazier than most other news anchors and there is some useful information here and there.  Democracy Now would not be my normal route for current news.  We run a mix of NPR and Fox news summaries when we can stand it, with a whole lot of C-Span mixed in.  (Hasn't been often lately.)   We've learned quite a bit from our kids over the years.  

I've seen a great deal of information from Democracy Now, such as belowabout Aaron Swartz. There's little information anywhere else, except the 'net, of course.

In a statement Saturday, the family and partner of Swartz lashed out at what they said were decisions by prosecutors that contributed to his death.

"Aaron's death is not simply a personal tragedy. It is the product of a criminal justice system rife with intimidation and prosecutorial overreach," the statement said.

"The U.S. Attorney's office pursued an exceptionally harsh array of charges, carrying potentially over 30 years in prison, to punish an alleged crime that had no victims," it added.

Precocious Aaron Swartz loved the lack of controls on the internet – the anarchy.  Homeschoolers can and do appreciate that too.  He, and others figured out how to fight Congress, when needed, and more importantly, the people behind the scenes, that seem to be running Congress.  Homeschoolers value that fighter spirit. Thousands and thousands of Illinois homeschoolers showed up in our state Capitol a couple of years ago and we didn't come on a bus. Illinois legislators will think twice about taking away our freedoms, just as the legislators in the US Capitol will do the same thanks to people like Aaron.  Because most in our media, along with the country's powermongers have not been able to figure us out.  We're too different from each other, while sharing a passionate cause.  They don't quite know how to beat us, but they will continue to try.  I hope Aaron's legacy stays strong and committed. His promise shouldn't be lost.

Rest in God's Peace, Aaron Swartz


Lost Promise — 3 Comments

  1. Thanks, Alasandra!  I am obsessed. I know I'm not the only one and it's a shame Aaron's death is what will lead to some of this being fixed. So many wrongs in this tragedy.

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