It seems rather harsh to judge this woman as an idiot just because she doesn't understand the difference between Linux and Windows. I'd suggest that the majority of people if not selected from a poll on the internet wouldn't either. To many, computer = windows as that's all they've ever used.
Yes, Linux can do most things better but it's still not going to be able to cope with you putting in Windows software and 'just working' which is what she was expecting to happen. Not everyone is comfortable with computers - they are still a scary alien thing where hitting the wrong key will break the internet. That doesn't make them idiots.
Ok, she was trying to learn more about how they work from a course which was probably very application-centric and was based on Windows. That seems like the best place to start to me for using applications so why not. Once you've gained in confidence then you can start exploring options like Linux, but why make life more complicated initially. If someone wanted to learn to drive in an automatic are they an idiot for not demanding a manual?
I'd put the blame on the Dell technical support person personally. She phoned them to ask for a replacement and was told by the 'technical authority' that she didn't need one as what she had was better. In her case, it clearly wasn't.
(Oh, and you're all n00bs coz OS X is the only l33t OS anyway :-P )