Though the school year is coming to an end, the debate over whether public school students in New York City should be allowed to bring their cell phones and iPads with them to class is beginning anew.
The Department of Education (DOE), at the direction of Mayor Michael Bloomberg, previously banned the use of cell phones and other devices in middle and high schools. Students are not permitted to bring the high-tech devices beyond the metal detectors installed in many campuses; other schools without such security devices have adopted a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy regarding the phones.
Why keep cell phones out of the classroom? School officials have said that the devices serve more as a distraction rather than a lifeline between students and their parents. Moreover, the phones can also be used to help students cheat or organize fights.
Interestingly, the ban of cell phones at schools with metal detectors has given rise to a cottage industry where businesses, often using trucks parked near these schools, offer to store cell phones for students for $1 a day.
That cost might not sound so expensive, but that hasn’t stopped some students from moaning about the storage charge, claiming that they can’t afford to pay. It’s an ironic argument given that most of these devices cost hundreds of dollars, not to mention pricey monthly coverage plans. In many cases, these expenses are paid for by their parents.
The debate over the ban was also rekindled by the recent armed robbery of a Safe Mobile Storage Corp. truck outside a Bronx high school in which cash and cell phones were stolen.
One parent against the ban was quoted as saying, “[a] cell phone is absolutely essential in this day and age, and there’s no reason that kids who go to scanning schools should have to pay hundreds of dollars and be unfairly treated in that way.”
Students against the cell phone ban have requested that the DOE provide a storage area within schools where they can drop off their cell phones upon arrival and pick them up at dismissal.
But Bloomberg indicated that the cell phone ban will not change and that the city lacks the space in public schools to store cell phones. “The kids in school should be focusing on the person in front of the classroom and not on their smartphone, or playing games or texting,” he was quoted as saying.
It has also been said that students should have phones with them in class in the event of an emergency. But personal emergencies are rare, and before there were cell phones, parents called their school’s office to reach their children. Moreover, as proven by the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks and the 2003 blackout, cell phones are useless in times of major crisis.
Lost in all this hooplah is that through this ban, students are getting a very valuable education on the cost of doing business. They can choose to leave their phones at home and it would cost them nothing; however, if they feel they cannot live without their phones, then they have to pay for the privilege.
Business owners have to pay as soon as they turn the key in the door of their business. Working people have to pay to use either public transportation or other forms of movement to get back and forth from their jobs. That’s how the real world works, and the sooner students learn that, the better off they will be.
Sometimes the best lessons in life are the ones taught the hard way.
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