I know that the pi is supposed to be a device to learn on but I really think the sound and networking ought to work out of the box with the recommended debian squeeze set-up.
I think most people would agree with you! You have the luck, or misfortune, to be a very early adopter of what is at the moment the first run of a development board. There is a planned "educational" release, including a case and documentation and lesson plans and more generally polished, which will be forthcoming, date to be announced, maybe towards the end of the year (at least that's my impression).
From what has been posted here, the current board was originally intended for developers (and brave early-adopters) who would be able to write software, drivers and documentation to fledge out the many unfinished areas. In my own opinion it is not yet ready for end-users expecting even a basic set of things to "just work" out of the box (some do, and some do not, often depending on your individual setup, specific monitor, kb, mouse, power supply etc). Whether by accident or design, the developer release got more attention than expected and much of the global publicity ignored the "work in progress - for developers" part. At least, this is my impression. I'm just a reader of these forums, not a foundation member and not yet a Pi owner. Although I'll buy yours at full list price, if you don't want it.