Friday, April 12, 2024

Why the fear with cells in schools?


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I’M PROMPTED to write this piece after an incident at my son’s school involving cellphone use and the rule associated with it.

Let me be clear from the outset. I’m not in any form or fashion advocating the flaunting of any school rule or encouraging disrespect by students.

It just seems absurd to me that in each and every information technology class at all secondary schools, students are encouraged to embrace technology, the way of the world, yet still there is this seemingly robust barrier erected by the same schools to prevent the student’s use of cellphones and, to a lesser extent, tablets.

I have never yet heard any rational argument made by anyone in authority as to why cellphones are not allowed in schools. One “serious” reason often touted is that students use them to record sex acts in school.

I dismiss this as a totally irrational argument based on a false premise that all students who have cellphones will use them to record such.

Even more sinister is the admission that there is a problem with sex acts in school inextricably linked to cellphones and their use by students. If the latter  is the case, then schools have a bigger problem worthy of an investigation by the Royal Barbados Police Force.

One can argue that if a phone goes off or “pings” during class, it serves as an annoyance and this is a no. Such an interruption will indeed be a problem.

As far as I’m concerned this speaks to the irresponsible use of the device by its owner. Should we ban cellphones in church as well? Virtually all cellphones nowadays come fitted with an “airplane mode” feature which renders inactive the phones’ ability to communicate. Encourage the owner to use this feature.

Scientific calculator

This brings me back to the issue of my son, the cellphone and his school. He misplaced his scientific calculator and had to use one for math. We discussed it and decided that so as not to be without that tool for the subject, he should put his phone on “airplane mode” and employ the scientific calculator function so as to get by until he got another calculator.

Of course, children being who they are, he sneaked a call at lunchtime requesting that I bring him food. He was caught and the rest is history.

I have since “arrested” the phone to avoid a recurrence of such an episode, which I must say could have probably resulted in his expulsion from school in fifth form since it had the propensity to have escalated to such, had I not turned up at the school within hours.

Is it really the actions of a few ill-disciplined students that has caused the strict enforcement of this rule “no cellphones in schools”?

Or is it the administrations’ fear that some smart student will use his or her smartphone to clandestinely videotape or audio record a teacher or two verbally abusing students, or acting in a manner not befitting the teaching profession?

Red herring

I think this may be the greater fear and the “sex act” argument is thrown out as a red herring to incense and panic the public and guide them away from the bigger picture. The smartphone can be used as a source of incriminating evidence.

To solidify my argument, I will cite an incident which occurred a few years ago at a secondary school located in the east of this island.

After some disagreement on a topic in form the teacher got all heated and, using some colourful expletives, proceeded to verbally abuse a student. The student responded with a few of his own. The teacher took the matter to the principal, accusing the student of “cussing” her in form.

The teacher swore at that time that she never used any “cuss words” to the student. She was given the benefit of the doubt, the student was disciplined, and the teacher went on to make a big joke of it privately.

If there had been a smartphone in use in that form and that incident had been secretly recorded, the result would have most certainly been different. Maybe this is where the fear of having cellphones in schools reside!

I see cellphones no differently from a transistor radio brought to school to listen to cricket during lunch, before or after school. You are not allowed to turn them on in form, labs or in any part of the school building. If you contravene this rule, the device is seized, not permanently or for the whole term, but for seven days or so.

Ban them from first to third forms but give those in fourth to sixth forms a little credit for having a bit more experience and encourage them to develop some form of self-discipline going forward.

If you discover repeat phone offenders and some showing blatant disrespect, ratchet up the penalty and return the phone to them at the end of the term.

Whatever is done to address this issue going forward, it should be void of the contradictory element of encouraging the youth to sail full steam ahead in this technological world, while at the same time administering medieval tactics to discourage them from embracing these devices such as cellphones and tablets as communications and learning tools, which they are.

Remember, the same device that can record a “sex act” in school can also record a good physics lecture at the same place.

Encourage responsible use instead.




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