Palm Beach County’s Possible Folly: Easing Ban On Cellphones in Schools?

Generally speaking, every morning it takes me a nice cup or two of coffee to help me open my eyes and get the fuzz off my brain’s exterior.  However, this morning I was spared my routine overdose of caffeine by the Palm Beach Post’s front page article entitled “Plan to ease school district’s policy on cellphones gets fuzzy reception” that sent shock waves through my cerebellum.   If you don’t live in Palm Beach County, Florida, you can look up the article written by Ms. Cara Fitzpatrick on their website at www.palmbeachpost.com: http://www.palmbeachpost.com/news/schools/palm-beach-county-school-board-gets-hung-up-535575.html

I struggled to read through the entire article without yelling aloud in back talk as I’m prone to do–especially if I’m watching political pundits on TV.  Evidently there is a group of school technology officials in Palm Beach County that are suggesting that school board members consider easing the district’s restrictions on cellphone use, possibly using them in classroom instruction.

As I must applaud the creativity of using texting to send out memos to students during the day, I also abhor the idea of further overwhelming our youth with technology that offers little benefit overall.

The reality is that as with much of the technology bingeing that our society has participated in only the last three decades, the cons come out much later after we’ve been sold on the pros of the latest gadget or concept (like the world-wide web internet).

In this particular case, school officials have essentially become perhaps a little worn down by the constant need to reprimand their students for illicit cellphone use.  At the same time, I do believe that parents are to fault for sending their children to school with a cellphone in tow.  As for you parents that may be reading this and get upset with me: then at least consider if you do deem it a necessity for your child to carry that cellphone on their person, you are also responsible for ensuring that they do not use that phone during school hours unless it is a serious emergency on your part or theirs (which, honestly, those calls should be conducted in the school administration office, not in the classroom).

One of the ideas for a revised mobile phone policy in Palm Beach County mentioned that “use of cellphones would be ‘generally banned’ in schools, but would be allowed in classrooms for the instructional purposes as determined by the teacher and principal”.  Again, we’ve already learned that computers, both desktops and laptops, offer some benefits in classroom use, but they cannot replace the instructor-student interaction necessary for proper learning as appropriate for the respective grades.  Why would we then incorporate cellphone use on top of a pre-existing educational technology with bigger screens and memory?

A funny proposal was the one I read that offers “students, parents, school employees and others would be allowed to use electronic signatures to sign documents.”  Now I think we’ve truly gone tech-stupid.  The moment a John Hancock is too much for a parent to do in person for their child just makes me angry.  You may want to argue with me on this one and I invite you to do so because perhaps I’m simply a dinosaur in this regard.  I still think I want my child to bring a paper to me in person so we can discuss what it’s asking of he/she as well as myself to sign off on.  Why would we want to treat our interaction with our children regarding their education like some faceless technology swap with our big-wigs at the office or the bank loan officer we’d rather not meed in person?

Ultimately, the article leaves the cellphone discussion “to be continued” in this school board’s case in Palm Beach County, Florida.  It did wake me up again to the fact that our idea of how school was for us certainly is not the same for our children today.  However, I also stand firm that change doesn’t mean throwing away the template completely to make way for something that we still don’t know the true ramifications of in the future.

I’ve written before on the subject of the current epidemic of today’s children not knowing how to interact outdoors in nature unabated.  That is a direct result of a number of factors, mostly involving overuse and overstimulation of TV, video games, computers and other indoor medias that have paralyzed an entire generation of kids.  We must tread carefully as we now witness our technology becoming increasingly handheld, head held (like the annoying blue tooth, I lasted with that for a few months before I decided no thanks).

Of course I’m not saying that we can avoid it entirely.  But I know we as parents do still hold the key to teaching our children how to exercise moderation in every aspect of their lives with technology increasingly becoming a pervasive part of it for them.  Already I am curbing in my own usage and have found that it benefits me personally as well as hopefully an example for my son T.A.–and, no, he will not have his own cellphone in middle school, I can promise you that.

RVSB

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