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On Monday the 25th of August the Code Club board gave me an ultimatum, either I have to stop saying negative things about Code Club sponsors, or resign as a director. After careful consideration, I have handed in my resignation.

I've had a great time working on Code Club, from inception and boozy planning with Clare to writing educational materials and seeing them used in the wild, most of all seeing what the kids make. I have really enjoyed user testing lessons with kids, and going around the world meeting like-minded people and enthusing about constructionism. I am lucky to have met so many people who love Seymour Papert as much as I do <3

The board has given me detailed instructions in how I should talk about Code Club sponsors. For instance, if someone asks me about x's involvement in corporate mass surveillance where x is a Code Club sponsor (eg Google), I should answer: "I do not want to get into the specifics of any particular corporation. Nonetheless, it’s worth restating that the Code Club board believe X are a tremendous partner. As a member of the board I am completely aligned with that view."

I'm not comfortable with lying and so it is in my best interest to resign.

I don't believe the the world is black and white. People and corporations are able to do both good things and bad things. Even if Google was mostly good, I need to have the right to call them out when they do bad things. Doing some good things should not give you a free pass. We should not accept that privacy no longer exists, just because corporations doing mass surveillance also teach kids to code. I cannot stay silent about large corporations infringing on human rights, and I believe it is my moral obligation to speak out against it.

At first, I thought I could be pragmatic, that I could play along with things I don't agree with with as long as it was for a greater goal. But there are some things I do not want to sacrifice. And in any case, I can continue to do all the educational work I want to do outside of Code Club. Like working on the new Digital Maker badge for the Scouts, writing educational materials and running free workshops.

I know Code Club's over 2000 (and growing!) volunteers will continue to do awesome work, they’ll have my continued admiration, love and support.

Linda Sandvik

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Linda, as one of the original 10 pilot code club leaders I am sorry to hear that you are no longer involved but I respect your reasons for so choosing. I wish you well in your future endeavours. Bob Higham.

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cdutson commented Aug 27, 2014

You don't know me, but I have to say: good for you. I support what Code Club does, but sometimes you need to call a spade a spade and stick with it. A company can do both good and bad things; opting to gloss over or ignore the bad things because of the good isn't a compromise I'd be willing to make either.

Thanks for helping may Code Club what it is, and good luck on your future projects

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I can't add to what cdutson said. I am sure you will do many more good things.

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pavsta commented Aug 27, 2014

Well done Linda for holding to your views and beliefs and not giving into the board's pressue!

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As one of the code club volunteers, I'm sorry to hear about this. It's hard to move away from something you grew so successfully, but agree with your reasoning and wish you good luck on future projects.

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Huge respect for sticking to your guns, Linda.

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miah commented Aug 27, 2014


Corporations need to get over the fact that people can see and say things about them.

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Code Club won't be the same without you, massive respect for sticking to your values.

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You've got many many people standing behind you, kudos for sticking up for the right thing.

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Always sad when organizations roll over for their sponsors. I'm sorry it came down to that sort of terrible ultimatum for you, and good for you that you chose the path of integrity.

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Dear Linda, I'm pretty much a nobody in this here big picture, and I'm not a savant of the details in this matter. I'm just writing to say that for what a layman's opinion is worth, and for the tiny dose of relief that I can offer by agreeing with you: I think you definitely made the right choice. Whatever the bureaucratic fine lines may have been, they were still basically asking you to lie. You chose to stay genuine, and that's always the best choice.

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I know Code Club's over 2000 (and growing!) volunteers will continue to do awesome work, they’ll have
my continued admiration, love and support.

Good luck to them indeed: it's hard to be optimistic about an educational project whose board so obviously has commercial priorities; but if others working with Code Club do manage to continue to deliver despite that, that's great. May your next project(s) be less conflicted! This one has smelt bad from the start.

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You did the right thing.
"Shut up about our sponsors" is a total dick move.

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aral commented Aug 27, 2014

Linda, I didn’t want to speak publicly about this while you where there but, as you know, this is also the reason why I resigned from the Code Club board of directors earlier this year. I cannot help but feel that with you leaving, Code Club has lost the last bit of its original conscience. And it pains me to write these things about an initiative that I loved and supported since the earliest days.

This is what I mean when I speak about “institutional corruption”. I’m very sure no one from Google ever asked that I be asked to leave the board of directors or that you be silenced about corporate surveillance (or spyware) but that is exactly how the hegemonic nature of vested interests works. What we have to ask ourselves is what is the price of sponsorship by spyware companies like Google and Facebook for organisations? Especially those organisations with social missions and even more so those whose work touches the most vulnerable in our society: children.

What does it say when these organisations legitimise spyware by association and help peddle its wares to children? What does it mean when these organisations normalise corporate surveillance?

Thank you for writing this, Linda. And thank you for all of your hard work for Code Club. I’m honoured to have worked together with you on this and to be able to call you a friend. Let’s chat soon, because, as I was telling Doug recently, it’s clear that we need independent alternatives for tech education. (By the way, Doug’s talk from the, Raising the next generation is very relevant to all this.)

Take care + chat soon :)

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This is what happens when geeks get involved in social activism. Not just geeks, but idealist young people in general. It's one of the major narratives of how we got communism, fascism, two world wars and the atom bomb. . You have principles, you get involved in projects, you find yourself ethically compromised, and you get accused of being something you never wanted to be. Geeks find this especially painful because they have exceptional faith in rational solutions, compared to (say) medics working in war zones, who are more scientific than geeks, but nowhere near as freaked out by conflict and power.

We can't demand that technology is pure, any more than our water is. What we can do is take whatever we can get our hands on, and improve it according to our ethics, and put it into the hands of people we want to empower. Or we can retreat to safety.

Most of us do both. As much good as we can, and not enough to get ourselves destroyed.

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What is the evidence that Google is participating in "corporate mass surveillance"?

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I think it's admirable that you're doing what you think is the right thing. From what you've posted here though I don't understand what you feel is a lie? Just because Google may be doing something shady doesn't mean they haven't been a good partner in advancing the mission of Code Club. The board seems to be asking you to avoid broader general public debates and focus on the message and mission of the organization. In your example if they asked you to advocate for Google's respect of privacy or say something you don't believe in then I can see that as a lie, but what they seem to be asking is to not get bogged down in other debates and dilute the organizations message with your own personal advocacy on a different topic.

While it definitely stinks that you start to lose your autonomy as you move into a director position, that's kind of the deal there. As director you become the face and voice of the organization. You should never lie I do think it's important to realize that where you go, so does the organization. So if you want to get involved in a fight about Google's policy, you're dragging the organization into it as well weather you like it or not. Being conscious of that and being willing to manage that is part of being a director in my opinion.

Again, I admire your decision if you feel those kinds of trade offs aren't right for you but I don't see how they are asking you to lie from your example.

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I have great respect for the work you put into starting Code Club and doing something exceptional to improve technical education in Britain in a way that the government and the education authorities seem to only be paying lip service to (see: Year of Code, Lottie Dexter and that whole shitfest).

I have even more respect for you for having the integrity to stand up for the truth. You rock.

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It's sad that the Board felt a narrow protectionist stance was in the best interests of the organisations mission, and didn't see how their constraints limited the ability of deeply committed, creative, individual staff to do what they cofounded the organisation for.

In short, the Board has failed to understand the creativity you created Code Club to encourage.

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sh1989 commented Aug 28, 2014

From a CC volunteer; thank you for the fantastic work you've done building Code Club into a successful movement, best wishes for future endeavours and bravo for sticking to your principles.

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ghost commented Aug 28, 2014

Well done. More people should talk about these issues and resist calls to self-censor. Just because an organisation may provide donations does not mean that you have to personally agree with everything that they do. Also thanks for being involved with Code Club.

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antonyh commented Aug 28, 2014

It's great to see principles coming first, and I think you made the right choice. In my opinion, corporate agendas and suppressing criticism have no place in initiatives like Code Club.

This has made it to the top stories section on The Register, there's more commentary here:

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bilbof commented Aug 29, 2014

Thank you for standing up for privacy!

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