02/22/2024
Jefferson Weaver
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By Jefferson Weaver

The young man’s upturned face barely reached past my belt, but he was all business.

“May I help you?” he said, politely but with a hint of suspicion.

I introduced myself, and asked for directions to the school’s office. He returned to his classmates, marched over to the teacher and briefed her on the tall, hairy stranger. She was embarrassed that she hadn’t seen me, but I will never criticize a teacher’s situational awareness when she is managing 30 primary school children
on a beautiful spring day. She directed the little sheepdog to show me to the office, a few yards away. I had a camera over one shoulder, and my press badge around my neck, so I was deemed legitimate. I was impressed by the young fellow’s instincts – not to mention his willingness to confront a stranger.

That was the fourth of five schools I visited over the course of a few months; I had appointments at two. I will not share what schools I visited, but that was the only time I was confronted by someone when I walked onto campus, and it was a little kid. I know there were no cameras at a couple of the schools. I did meet a couple of locked doors that required someone on the other side of the buzzer and the camera to approve my entry.

Tis a far cry from the days when a stray dog could wander the halls of our high school, or a farm hand would go to our school lunchroom and ask for a cold drink.

No cell phone in a student’s hands would have stopped me, had I been an evildoer.

I have heard the complaint multiple times that children need phones in school in case of an emergency.

The horrible specter of a mass shooting is most often given as an excuse. I don’t buy it. I would submit that, based on the media coverage of the shootings, very few children will actually call 911 if a monster enters  their school. Most will do as any normal kid would and call a parent. In at least two of those all-too-frequent criminal incidents, the shooter followed the sound of a child’s voice as she talked on the telephone.

If an evil coward intent on violence enters a school, the potential victims need to be able to be quiet, not seeking the reassurance of someone who can do nothing to help. I also feel the kids should be taught to hide, but be ready to fight behind voluntarily armed and trained teachers, but that’s a column for another day.

I don’t buy the false premise that every child can be a hall monitor/security guard if he or she has a phone. Nor do I buy the often loudly proclaimed idea that parents and children need to have constant contact.

Children are apparently much more fragile these days. I can recall perhaps three, perhaps four times I truly needed to call my parents from school. There were two times I know my folks had to come get me (once I was hurt, another time Mother needed me for something). I had classmates who called more, some who called less, and some who never called at all.

Once we had a fire in my school. We filed outside (just like in the fire drills) and waited until the fire department put the fire out. When the firefighters called it clear, we went back to class. I don’t think anybody called their parents.

If a kid got hurt or sick, the teacher used a phone in her room or more often, one of the folks in the school office made a call for us. I don’t recall ever having a payphone on campus, since those were often used for calling in fake bomb threats around exam time.

Therefore, I don’t buy the need for parents and children to be able to have constant, instant communication.

The first documented cheating by a student occurred at the feet of Hippocrates, if I am recalling my history correctly. Children and teens are learning boundaries whilst they are learning lessons. It is as natural for a student to be tempted to cheat as it is to want to fake a stomachache to stay home. Some will try harder, some will cheat once and never cheat again, some will never give in to the temptation– but it’s part of growing up. Adults have to do all they can to stop it.

Making it easier for kids to cheat in the name of “researching something via Google” on their smartphones is simply shirking the job of being a grownup.

Some schools make students leave their cellphones in lockers or a box on the teacher’s desk during school. Many schools are opting for an outright ban, which I think is the wiser choice.

Anyone who says teens and younger kids won’t be distracted by cellphones in school has obviously never eaten in a restaurant, been in a retail store, attended a ball game, or attended church.

I admit –I whispered, passed notes, and even used American Sign Language against the orders of teachers. I didn’t cheat, but I was tempted to. I did my research papers in libraries, using books, which a friend of mine with school age kids says now have no place in the world, due to Google.

I don’t understand why parents and a few teachers are up in arms at forcing students to use books, computers in a school library or whatever electronic devices they have at home for research and homework.

I do understand some students have a legitimate need for phones – for instance, some phones function as glucose monitors, and help prevent diabetic episodes.

But no kid needs to be able to text “Im bored” and be reassured by his mom (punctuation aside).

I will be roundly criticized and mocked for this column; indeed, I was subjected to such during a discussion on the topic the other day. I am fully aware that I am old fashioned, out of touch, barely one step above a rotary dialing, cave-dwelling troglodyte to whom fire is magical gift from the Sky God. Contrary to claims of my critics, I do have electricity and even indoor plumbing in my home – and I have a smartphone, which I frequently use. I will agree that “the old days are over” and I may be “completely out of touch with reality.”

That being said, I can’t figure out how people my age are still breathing. My generation created this technology – technology without which some kids apparently cannot learn.

I don’t see how we managed to survive without being able to check someone’s social media status in the middle of civics class. It just seems to me that things have been reversed – we are going from the Renaissance back into the Dark Ages.

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