It’s the innate curiosity in children that drives them to take apart toys and gadgets and earn the ire of the adults at home. Yes, it’s hard to stand by and watch passively as an expensive gizmo is being systematically torn to pieces, but there are some kids who do it, not because they have a destructive streak within them, but because they want to know how the car runs, why the remote controls the television, and what the little knob extending from your cell phone does. They figure they can put the pieces back together, but before they can even start, you’re raining on their parade and the fun’s over, and the lesson too.

For those of you who’re raising your eyebrows at the word lesson, let me reiterate – yes, a valuable lesson. I believe that the best way to learn is through hands-on experience; you never know if you’re actually good at something till you try your hand at it. With kids being extra sharp these days, don’t be surprised if you come home one day to find your broken video game console working like it was brand new or your virus-ridden computer booting up without a hitch – in spite of your stern lectures never to play with your expensive gadgets, they’ve gone behind your back and figured out their workings just by playing around with the mechanics of the object.

And that’s why it makes sense to encourage them to use open source software right from childhood – the very nature of the code is an open invitation to dig their hands in, turn it around, play with it, and manipulate it to perform better or with different results. There are no disciplinarians standing over their shoulders here, waiting to punish them if things go wrong, a fact that is a key aspect of being able to work in peace with no clouds whatsoever hanging over their heads.

Unlike proprietary software which is buried under and protected by layers and layers of licenses, open source initiatives are a budding programmer’s dream come true – they’re the perfect lessons and the best teachers for minds eager to learn, eager to do, and eager to achieve. While it’s true that talent blossoms at any age, the reason a lost childhood is rued is that we’re untouched by fears and doubts in our innocence, we don’t know what it is to taste failure, and we’re not bothered by what others say. And that is why the best time to experiment and learn is when we’re kids – we have more guts to take on the unknown, not just to reach out and conquer it, but to not make a big deal out of it either. That’s for the grown-ups, with their pretentious airs and self-congratulatory attitudes.

But I digress – the point I’m trying to make is that open source promotes learning and creates geniuses like no other model does, and that’s why our educational institutes, pillars of learning that they are, must be willing to champion their usage in schools.