An ethical dilemma of sorts - High School teachers & administors specifical invited

TeenSthrnAccent is taking a computer course in high school. The curriculum guide description says:

Several of his classes (this one Calculus and Biology) are like this, either Honors, AP and/or Dual Credit for college and high school.

And while it isn’t a course requirement to have it at home, they use MS Powerpoint in the class for projects and homework. We don’t have Powerpoint on our home computer and can’t afford to run right out and get it. TeenSthrnAccent last night told me the instructor told him to go on the internet and get a bootleg copy. :eek:

Clearly TSA knows this is wrong and he won’t be doing it.

This is a class he did not need to graduate. However he really wanted to take it. He says it will give him a certification that will make it possible for him to be more gainfully employed right out of high school and through college.

However, I’m a bit put out that the instructor told him to do this. Having been a high school student in the distant past, I know that if I suggest to the teacher and/or the administration that his advice was inappropriate I’m shooting my own kid in the foot as he’s got this class for the remainder of the year. I know there are good and great teachers out there, but there are plenty who are vindictive people who could and would make a school year miserably difficult if crossed.

Does anyone have constructive suggestions? What would you do?

I meant Administrators in the title.

Speaking as a teacher: Ask for a conference soonest. Inform the teacher that you can’t afford to get PowerPoint for your home computer, and ask if there is a “loaner” laptop with it installed that TSA can check out overnight to get projects done. If not, then inquire as to instructor’s policy on work not done on PowerPoint. If there is any grading discrepency, or if the instructor tells you to bootleg a copy, set up a conference with both teacher and an administrator present. It is illegal do require students to purchase home software, and illegal for the teacher to have differential grading pertaining to such. We will skip the unethical part of suggesting down-loading bootleg copies of software.

It may all be a bit of mis-communication. Talk to the teacher yourself, then take whatever action you deem necessary. None may be required at all.

Have you checked about educational pricing for PowerPoint? Most MS products, if purchased by a teacher or student for class work can be obtained at a significant discount. Check you local software vendors.

Another possibility might be to see if you can find PowerPoint compatible freeware or shareware which could be used for the class. Don’t know of any offhand, but there must be some out there.

As a possible stop-gap, would OpenOffice or StarOffice do the trick? Unless the teacher is going to be trying to teach every little trick for using PowerPoint (to which I would ask, why, for a class meant to be able to get A+ certification), it’d be for presentations. I can’t think of a single presentation I’ve made using PowerPoint that I probably couldn’t have done using IMPRESS instead, collobrative efforts aside where it was just easier to use my copy of PowerPoint than either IMPRESS or Sun’s StarOffice version.

Now, I’ll be honest that I’ve not used much of either OpenOffice or StarOffice (the only reason I ever downloaded StarOffice was because I needed something that could open PowerPoint presentations due to an incompatibility between the copy of Office 95 I was using and the school’s insistence on Office 2000 and I downloaded OpenOffice onto a computer that I needed to be able to create documents on for reports to my boss but didn’t come with Office), but I have used both a little bit, and it wasn’t that hard to get to know the interface. It would probably take no more time than to learn how to use Office well, and quite possibly less.

If there is a way to buy it through the school, it should only cost roughly $35 a copy, see the web site below as an example.

I am not advocating purchasing through them specifically, merely providing an example of academic pricing and purchase terms.

Thanks for the replies. I’m really not so concerned about buying the software package. We’ll get it when and if we can. Until then, if he can’t get it done in class he can go to the tech center before and after school on alternate days when he doesn’t have practice. I know he’ll get his school work done. It’ll just be easier on him if he could do it at home.

What I was concerned about is the teacher suggesting a student get a bootlegged copy of software off the internet and whether the inappropriateness of it ought to be addressed with the teacher or the administration.

Go get this: the free Powerpoint viewer put out by Microsoft. It allows you to view and print presentations, but not to edit them in any way. Should do the trick.

Adobe is often unfriendly to schools in my experience. I put together an entire school publication on pirated software (although I have ethical problems with that myself.) The school really could not afford to do so otherwise.

What I did not do was tell the students that the software was not licensed properly. It really does set a poor example. What Adobe gains is a group of students that are proficient in the software and know that it was a better product than many others. (Micro$oft Word was the other choice and boy using that would have sucked.)

I would try and ask nicely if the school will allow him to get an educational copy. Combine that by just pretending you are technically un-savvy, “My parents are afraid of getting a virus…they won’t let me download, they are terrified.” Unless that teacher wants to call you or make a house call, this might work out for you.

(Teachers use a similar tactic. When a parent complained about anything in my classroom I’d invite them to volunteer and spend the day in my room. Most high school parents are not willing to take the time.)

I find it completely unacceptable that the instructor would advise getting a bootleg copy. What the heck do the drivers ed teachers tell the students who don’t have cars to practice with?

That said, confronting the teacher may well have reprecussions. I’d ask your child what the teacher is like. If he’s not an unreasonable jerk, it might be easy enough to go to a conference and state that a bootleg copy is not an option and that advising students to steal software is probably not a good thing for the teacher to do in the future. Getting administration involved is probably more likely to lead to fallout for your child than confronting the teacher directly.

Another option (seems simple enough) would be to see if the school has computers that can be used before/after school hours or during lunch for preparation of required presentations.

Is it at all possible that what the instructor really said was something like Atticus Finch or Fat Bald Guy recommended, and your son misunderstood?

I’d take silenus’s advice. Make like your son never told you that the teacher suggested a bootleg copy and speak to the teacher directly. The teacher may know of a way to legally/ethically get your son what he needs. Now, if the teacher suggests to you that you bootleg a copy–that’s a whole 'nother can of worms. You’ll have first-hand knowledge that the teacher is suggesting you steal the software, and then you can act on that.

Thanks for the comments and suggestions everyone.

I really have no reason to believe my son would make something like this up or misunderstand the word “bootlegged”. It’s not the first time he’s had to tell at teacher that we couldn’t afford something right away and ask for a classroom loaner or open class times before or after the regular school day until we could arrange to get whatever he needed. They usually just let him know it’s ok to come before or after school to use the classroom french ruler set, T-eightysomething calculator, or whatever. He knows the drill and really does go before or after school to use whatever or get tutoring whenever he needs. We’re not talking about a kid who’s looking for a way out of work. He’s a young man nearly 18 who could have taken the easy path and graduated early. Instead he is taking his senior year for dual credits from the high school and local college, athletics and this computer class because he wanted to learn the subject matter and to have the advantage of the training that the course offers.

We always go to meet the teachers nights when they have them a few weeks after school starts, I guess I’ll be meeting this teacher just a bit sooner than the others. I like the idea of asking the teacher about getting it through the school at an educational discount.

Thanks again folks.

I would recommend OpenOffice, its free, and open source if you’re into that kind of thing.

The other option is if you have an older child at a University, they can usually buy software at heavily discounted prices. I can get the full blown Professional Edition of Office XP for 75 dollars at my school’s bookstore.

I agree with your decision to not get a bootleg copy of this software. But the suggestion from the instructor to download a bootleg was designed to save you money, and to jam him up with his administration for this would be, I think, terribly unfair and an overreaction. Keep in mind educators have a lot more legal leeway in terms of fair use and reproducing materials, and he may simply but mistakenly view this as an extension of this principle. Just tell him you don’t want to bootleg, for whatever reason you decide to share with him, and leave it at that. And then ask him for perhaps a school copy of the software to borrow or somewhere you can make a relatively cheap educational discount purchase.

Anyway you could use open source software, like It’s free, and quite user-friendly. It might take a little bit of adjusting using it, but it’s compatible with PowerPoint. You can get the entire productivity suite for free. It includes Writer (word processing), Calc (spreadsheet), Draw (drawing tool), and Impression (presentation). It’s all in a format very similar to Microsoft, and, like I said, it’s free, and you can convert the files to be readable in MS formats like Word, Excel, and PowerPoint.

I’m a big proponent of open source software, and use it exclusively for my business. Here’s a link to the OpenOffice web site:

Oops! I didn’t see that someone had already suggested OSS! Oh, well, consider mine another vote in favor of freeware! :smack:

Fair use applies to the copying of content for valid purposes without payment of a royalty and/or violating copyright.

Fair use does not apply to using the tools which created the content. Downloading a bootleg copy of software and using it is called theft.

If an instructor of my child told my kid to use bootleg software I’d turn in the instructor. A failure of ethics in school (especially of this magnitude) teaches kids it’s ok to do the same (or worse) once they graduate and get a job. Or do you prefer your energey needs served by Enron?

If a high performing, advanced placement student’s family cannot afford a $ 35.00 software package, the instructor has relatively few options, and in all fairness to the bootleg suggesting instructor, I would imagine that running into that scenario (AP student in a very financially stressed family) is a fairly rare occurance, so he probably had no immediate solution other than suggesting “obtaining” it somewhere. Give him a heads up that that’s not a workable solution if you want, but I don’t think I’d pillory him for it administratively though, in that he was kinda-sorta trying to help a student in need, and made a questionable ethical judgement.

So in the world you live in, if you’re an advanced placement student, then it’s not possible your family could be on a rather tight budget and you might have to wait sometimes for a week or two or three to get unplanned for expenses?

I think it’s wonderful that you can’t imagine a world where parents of hard working children don’t suffer the same fate and have to deal with layoffs or pay cuts or difficult job markets where one or both parents salary now might about half of what it was prior to the events of Sept. 11 and Jan. 2002. Wouldn’t it be nice if having a smart hardworking kid, meant it just wasn’t likely or possible that the car break down, or medical and dental expenses pile up that prohibit running right out and getting every little thing a teacher recommends at the drop of a hat. May your life and the lives of your children always be so financially sound and trouble free.

FTR, In the OP I said we couldn’t afford to run right out and get it. I didn’t say we wouldn’t ever be able to get it and I sure didn’t say I was interested in "pilliory"ing anyone.

Thanks for the constructive suggestions folks. I’ve sent him a note and asked him to have the OpenOffice downloaded when I get home so we can look at it and see if he can use that until after we pay the mortgage.