Wednesday, November 14, 2007

A Solution to the Cell Phone Issue

Today, it was reported that the DOE's plan to install cell phone lockers outside of several schools has been put on hold. This plan was created as a possible resolution to the Cell Phone Ban, the contentious rule that states that NYC students are not allowed to have their cell phones in school, even if they are turned off.

In short, the ban is wrong because it puts students, who commute up to 4 hours per day, into an unsafe situation because it takes away their main line of communication with parents and the police in the event of an emergency. This is in turn contributes to distrust between students and that makes the already difficult tasks of teaching and learning slightly more impossible.

This new plan of building lockers outside of school in which students would pay to store their cell phones is a waste of money. The safety issues that transparent outdoor lockers raise are to complicated to resolve. It doesn't adequately relieve the distrust in our schools. And it does not address the real issue that the Cell Phone Ban is trying to address: Academic Integrity.

The main reason that Bloomberg has articulated in support of the Ban is that students misuse cell phones in class. He says that students make calls and text messages in class and use their cell phones to cheat on tests. While my first instinct is to ask the Mayor why we does not ban pen and paper from schools (because if you did a statistical analysis of cheating in NYC schools I'm sure you'd find that students use those as means of cheating much more often than they use cell phones,) I believe that it is more important to propose a simple and effective solution to the issue of students misusing cell phones in class.

Instead of banning cell phones and creating a host of new problems, or building super-high-tech-theft-proof-safety-guaranteed-outdoor-transparent cell phone lockers and wasting too much of the DOE's valuable funds, why don't you just LOWER CLASS SIZES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

A student won't get away with using a cell phone in a class of 25! They just won't. And by lowering class sizes you will also increase the amount of actual education that goes on in our school because teachers will be able to develop better learning relationships with their students. As an anonymous high school teacher told me, "Lowering class size would fix everything." Everything including preventing students from misusing their cell phones in class and thus getting rid of the need for a citywide ban.

There you have it: A Real Solution.

1 comment:

Patrick Sullivan said...


Your linkage of these two issues - the rights of students to carry cell phones and smaller classes -- is an excellent insight. It is a failure of our system of schools governance that students, parents, teachers and our elected representatives are all one one side of these issues yet we are powerless to see the right policies implemented because two men - the chancellor and mayor oppose us. Please continue to make your self heard, especially as we begin the debate over what will replace mayoral control when it expires in 2009.