Classrooms Need to Power Down, Not Up
by Anthony Stasi
Jan 14, 2015 | 12014 views | 0 0 comments | 423 423 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Mayor Bill de Blasio’s lifting of the ban on cell phones in New York City classrooms is a big mistake.

Anyone who has taught at any level will tell you that we are living in a time of unprecedented limits to the American attention span. Any little sound is enough to pull a class off course for even a moment. Cell phones are going to be a problem.

The mayor’s argument is understandable. Since wealthier students may have more technology and access to their parents more often, the field of benefits should be leveled. He is wrong, however, in thinking that this levels the academic playing field; it does not.

What poorer students need is more attention to what they are learning, not an equivalent level of electronic toys. This is a move to make public school students happier instead of better educated, and in the end, it is not fair to the teachers or the students.

The idea that students may need to hear from their parents at any moment is ridiculous. I spent 24 years in school, including graduate school, and not once did I ever need to hear from my parents. Even if I did need to be reached, that was the job of the administrative staff at the school.

Parental involvement needs to happen when the student leaves school, not during class. This was a policy change that did not need to happen. Even at the college level, many professors will not allow laptops or electronic devices and for good reason. This does not make education better, it just makes it less possible.

Left out?

All of us who call ourselves writers have an obligation to at least express our concern about the attacks that occurred last week in Paris.

Any group, religious or political, has a right to be offended. As was written here a few weeks ago, the North Koreans had a right to be offended by Sony’s movie The Interview.

But being offended and taking violent action are quite different. The ongoing behavior of extremists sheds light on how we talk about extremist movements in the press.

The reaction from the American left, or progressives, is not easy to understand on this issue. Both ideological sides in the United States exploit international conflict politically. The progressive left, however, often points to what it sees as social injustice, such as a “war on women” waged by American conservatives.

If conservatives were waging a war on women, where is the outcry against the growing movement of extremists in the Middle East? If to be liberal is to be in favor of a more tolerant approach to public policy, where is the outrage when cartoonists are murdered for being cartoonists?

A recent Gallup Poll showed that Americans who identify as “liberal” is at a high of 24 percent. The question is what kind of liberal thought are people identifying with?

Comedian Bill Maher has come under fire for what many on the left feel is being too critical of liberalism. Maher, however, has stuck to his guns in calling out the left, who he claims would more easily criticize Israel or the Catholic Church before they would ever touch the 16th century version of a philosophy that is cruising across Iraq and Syria and threatening elsewhere.

The United States has not always handled its Middle Eastern policy well or with enough understanding of the culture. As a country, we interfered with Iranian politics decades ago, and then went into Iraq without enough intelligence on the matter.

But the issue here is not about terrorists or Isis or the Middle East. This awkward silence is about a large segment of Americans who usually tolerate very little by way of social injustice and yet stay relatively quiet when it comes to a particular extremist element that (violently) opposes everything for which they stand.

This does not mean that the American right has a handle on religious extremism or Middle Eastern politics, either. It does, however, expose a widening fault line in American liberal politics. It may play a factor in 2016.

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