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Silent Intrusions: Cell Phones in Class, Essay Example

Pages: 4

Words: 981

Essay

A variety of issues emerge when the subject of prohibiting cell phone use in the classroom is raised.   One form this takes is a kind of immediate outrage, and one typically expressed by the students facing the potential ban.   In their estimation, this translates to an invasion of privacy, if not a denial of personal liberties; after all, the cell phone is a device essentially “worn” on their persons, and there is a visceral sense of being deprived of a personal choice.  Conversely, and hardly unexpectedly, teachers and professors are continually confounded by interruptions of a modern and tacit nature.   It is not that students are conducting literal and disruptive conversations in class, but that heads are dropped, thumbs and fingers are moving, and concentration is directed at whatever message is conveyed to them from the small screens in their hands.  These are, obviously, polar opposites of perception.

Given the polarity of feeling regarding this, then, the most attractive course a school may be drawn to is that of a suggestive nature.  That is, rather than an outright ban on such devices in the classroom, it may be seen as sufficient to exhort students to merely refrain from using cells while in the classroom.  This is not only a reasonable suggestion, but it also works to support the best interests of the students themselves.   Classes are both expensive and undertaken to accomplish certain aims, and cell phone disruptions obviously go to undermining the very ambition of the students themselves.   Add to this the decidedly unpleasant component of a potential need to actually collect cells from students.  Such an action must be abhorrent to professors, as reminiscent of a grade school teacher’s need to gather up comic books before the lesson begins.  For all concerned, then, a simple and confident request that the space of the classroom be respected by the turning off of all cells should attend to the problem.

It will not. Only an enforced ban on cell phone usage in classrooms will remove this disruptive element, because the inescapable reality is that even those students completely supportive of the logic behind shutting them off will perceive themselves, or certainly the text messages that they receive, as exempt.  This is the nature, not of students, but of humanity, for nothing is more typical of the human animal than a conviction that his or her circumstances defy generalized restrictions.   Should evidence of this remarkable human tendency be required, all that needs to be considered is the increasing number of states compelled to enact statutes banning texting and cell calls while driving.  Behind the wheel, as is common knowledge, lives are at risk when focus is diverted, yet the cells are used until the law prohibits them.  It is irrefutable, then, that people must  feel more entitled while safely behind a desk.

Like many students, I enjoy unrestricted access to my cell, nor am I especially eager to enter into a ritual of turning it off before I step into each class.   That same status as a student, however, also fuels my conviction in this regard, because I suffer something of the professor’s frustrations when texting occurs in the class.   On one level, I experience “second-hand” disruption; as the professor’s attention is diverted by the activity, so too am I denied those moments of instruction. More importantly, the ongoing momentum of the class is broken, and any professor – and student – knows that a certain and valuable energy is active in a good class.  Private pockets of spontaneous conversation, silent or voiced, destroy this.  Then, and still speaking as a student, there is a subtle and pernicious aspect to cell usage in class, in that I feel as though the value of the experience is lessened.   Texting from students cannot help but eviscerate the classroom process because each text serves to undermine the worth of it.  I have sat in more than a few classrooms and felt, even when the professor attempts to ignore the cell usage, my own resentment.  In dismissing the class as less important than the cell conversation, as these things inherently do, I myself am trivialized in my seeing the class as the priority.

What is most remarkable, however, in regard to debates on classroom cell phone prohibitions, is an apparent unease on the part of school administrations to enforce what is somehow perceived as a violation of civil liberties.   This is, in a word, absurd.  Just as, in decades past, teachers have been fully justified in confiscating radios playing in the class, so too are they completely entitled to demand the absence of any device whatsoever that distracts the student.   This is, in fact, an obligation on the part of the professor.   He or she is in place to perform a function, and the job is thwarted by the intrinsically interfering agent of the cell.   As for those students who claim, as is inevitably the case, that the cell must be on for emergency purposes, the argument is easy.   Any truly emergent situation may be called into the school, as in pre-Internet days, and the urgent message conveyed immediately to the classroom.  Those circumstances not quite fitting into these parameters are not actually potential emergencies, and can certainly wait until the bell rings and the devices may be activated again.

Finally, and perhaps most interestingly, none of the above addresses the true basics of the issue, which is the essential civility expected in any arena of a civilized society.   Repercussions to the educational process and professorial responsibilities aside, it is grossly discourteous for anyone to attend to a third party in a situation where their attention is expected to focus on someone else.  If this is a concept difficult for some students to digest, it may well be, then, that the ban on cell phones in classrooms will inadvertently provide these students with another kind of education, and one clearly needed.

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