A trade association has blasted the Massachusetts Information and Technology Division (IDT) for requesting a plug-in for Microsoft’s Office Suite, seizing on the issue as evidence that the state’s policy of mandating the OpenDocument Format (ODF) is “a biased, open source-only preference policy.”
This is false: what the state of Massachusetts is doing is not bias, it is discrimination, and it is what citizens should expect from their government. Preferring open standards is a thoughtful, discriminatory policy.
Unfortunately, the word “discrimination” has grown tentacles over the past 30 years; it is high time for English speakers to reclaim the original sense of the word: to make wise choices between options. To say that someone is “discriminating” was at one time one of the highest of compliments; the civil rights movement has unfortunately (and unwittingly) done the English language a misservice by turning “discrimination” into an accursed word.
- Discrimination in hiring based on the applicant’s level of education and ability to perform the job;
- Discrimination in serving somebody drinks at a bar based on their apparent level of drunkenness;
- Discrimination in issuing a loan based on credit history and income.
- Discrimination in hiring based on the applicant’s race;
- Discrimination in serving somebody drinks at a bar based on their nationality;
- Discrimination in issuing a loan based on gender.
It is perfectly reasonable for Microsoft to argue that discrimination against Microsoft Office because it doesn’t support the Open Document Format should fall under the category of “bad” discrimination: that’s a question of public policy. But it certainly isn’t bad simply because it is discriminatory.