Thursday, 21 June 2018

Phone moan

Once again teachers (and parents) are calling for mobile phones to be banned on school premises, for numerous reasons including not disrupting lessons, reducing bullying, preventing exam cheating, and limiting access to harmful websites.

That seems sensible to me. Whatever you see as the function of schools - passing exams, acquiring knowledge, learning to think, learning to be creative, picking up life skills - mobile phones have no part to play, and may actually be detrimental. So why are they permitted?

At the risk of sounding like grandad, I have to say that I never had a mobile phone when I was at school, and I don't feel I was deprived. I don't think I would have gained anything by having a Facebook page or checking my emails or looking at another twenty cat pictures.

But some people seem to think that banning mobile phones would be some sort of draconian act, denying personal freedom, telling people what to do etc. Which just seems like a crazy over-reaction to a common-sense suggestion. Schools aren't about personal freedom anyway, they're about acquiring skills.

It's also argued that parents and children need to be in touch with one another in case of an emergency like an attempted sexual assault, a sudden illness or a death in the family. Well, I don't recall any such emergency when I was at school, or if there was one, a teacher would have phoned my mum or vice versa.

I guess a mobile phone might have been handy when my teachers were droning on about something hopelessly boring like quadratic equations or tidewater glaciers. I could have furtively checked out which pop star had been busted for drugs or fallen off the stage or split their pants or set fire to their guitar.

But then again, I probably wouldn't have learnt very much.

PS: Algeria is disabling its entire national internet during the high school exam period from June 20 to June 25 to prevent phone cheating, which was widespread in previous years. In addition, all devices with internet access are banned from exam halls. Iraq has a similar policy.

21 comments:

Bijoux said...

When my kids were in high school, teachers took pupils' phones if they were used during class (handed back at end of class). My son had a college professor who made students leave class that day if he even saw a cell phone of their desk.

I think those are better methods than an outright ban.

Rummuser said...

What were parents and children doing before the advent of cell phones in cases of emergencies? I am in favour of banning cell phones in classes not only in schools but also in colleges and universities.

Joanne Noragon said...

I've read of teachers with shoe caddy bags hanging over the door. Students deposit phones on entering and retrieve when leaving. In our high school, phones live in back packs during class.

helen devries said...

Book the things in when you arrive, book them out when you leave...no need of them while you are in school where you have adults to cope with any emergencies.
Except, I suppose, for the seemingly compulsory invasion of the school with firearms....

nick said...

Bijoux: That seems like a fair compromise. But I still wonder why mobiles have to be brought into school at all.

Ramana: Indeed. Any emergencies in my two schools were easily dealt with by the teachers or headmaster/ headmistress.

nick said...

Joanne: That sounds like what Bijoux was saying. It's a reasonable alternative to an outright ban.

Helen: Yes, the adults can cope with any emergency. That's one of their responsibilities, after all.

CheerfulMonk said...

Unfortunately here in the States there is a good reason for kids to have phones with them. That doesn't mean they shouldn't be taken if they use them in class.

nick said...

Jean: What is the good reason? Do you mean for personal safety?

Polly said...

My grandson's school had a policy of handing in all mobile phones but the teachers were collecting so many they couldn't keep up so it has fallen by the wayside. I think they insist that they are turned off during lessons. I think the school is going downhill, but that's a rant for another day!

Jenny Woolf said...

Sometimes schools insist on imposing silly rules just for the sake of it. In a way it is quite a good idea since the kids are so busy being cross about that, that they don't do anything worse, I suppose. In my youth it was that you didn't wear certain items of uniform in the prescribed way, or had the wrong kind of socks. I dont suppose it will make much difference to them long term if they have their phones or not.

John Gray said...

No phones! . ? Common sense to me

nick said...

Polly: Yes, there are practical difficulties with simply handing in phones or not using them during lessons. A blanket ban may be a bit draconian but it's probably easier to enforce. France is banning all mobile phones on school grounds from September.

nick said...

Jenny: Kids would soon get used to a total ban on mobiles, however much they complained to begin with. They might even find it a pleasant relief.

There are still plenty of rows about school dress codes. Boys wearing shorts or dresses. Girls wearing short skirts or revealing blouses. There's always someone trying to bend the rules!

nick said...

John: It seems like common sense to me too. Even if they don't have their phones, they can still talk to each other! Do you remember "talking"? :-)

Secret Agent Woman said...

I saw a thing once where a teacher had a cubby system up front and every student deposited their phone into their cubby and picked it back up when they left class. That seemed fair to me.

nick said...

Agent: This seems to be a fairly common practice. Perhaps the same policy should be adopted in cinemas and theatres....

CheerfulMonk said...

"What is the good reason? Do you mean for personal safety?" Of course. Here in the states schools aren't always safe from shooters. The world today is a lot different from when we were young.

Joared said...

Can't they be required to keep phone in their pocket or backpack — turned off during class? Then, theire’s the smarta.. kid that wants to challenge authority. I sure don't envy what teachers have to cope with today.

nick said...

Jean: You can use mobile phones to alert people, but they won't stop a determined gunman mowing down dozens of pupils. Only security guards at the school entrance can stop that.

Joared: That seems to be the prevalent policy. But it must be hard to enforce it rigorously.

Snowbrush said...

If schools are so unsafe that they need phones for emergencies, why not give them pepper spray as well, and maybe put armed guards in every corridor, and armed teachers in classrooms. That's what things are coming to in America.

nick said...

Snowbrush: The increasing violence in American schools is quite alarming. Certainly security guards on the school entrances would be a sensible measure.