Outdated Government Shuts Down Innovative Hacker School

June 26, 2013 | Kyle Chayka

This isn’t your usual “hackers in legal trouble” news story. An unofficial hacker school known as Bitmaker Labs is facing some trouble from the Canadian government and it all started with a charming piece at the Globe and Mail about Bitmaker Labs founder Matt Gray and his intent to “change the world.”

Toronto may be no Silicon Valley, but Gray and friends began teaching basic Ruby-on-Rails coding, allowing some to become technically proficient in the building and maintenance of websites as well as other skills. The issue here is that the school charges a fee of $9,000 and due to the Private Career Colleges Act of 2005, it is considered unlawful to the Ontario Ministry of Training, Colleges, and Universities who are “concerned with the vocational nature of our program and lack of proper government oversight.”

While the TCU may have a point, it does not seem as though Bitmaker Labs was not doing anything really out of line — the program was not presenting itself as anything more than a quick way to learn code. It’s surprising to learn that even in Canada, a country with it’s mainly progressive views on education is taking issue with the small academy.

In a letter that now takes the place of their the website, the academy states the following:

We are cooperating with the MTCU to come into compliance with provincial legislation. Our objective is to register as a private career college on an expedited basis. To achieve this objective, we have retained counsel. Should any of you be contacted by the MTCU, we urge you to cooperate fully. We appreciate that the MTCU has a statutory duty to uphold and enforce the law and that Bitmaker Labs has a corresponding duty to comply with the law.

We care about every single one of you and will do everything in our power to make things right.

Thank you for the trust you’ve placed in us, we promise not to let you down.

Before going dark, the lab faced additional challenges including getting their curriculum approved, which could take up to nine months and when dealing with “bleeding edge technology” like the barely year-old Angular.js JavaScript framework, that time loss incurred by these rules is something an innovative, adaptive program like this simply can’t afford. So, they didn’t.

Seems like legislative authority isn’t evolving at the same speed as the educational bodies it is meant to oversee.