No, no, no.
Students should not have smartphones on their person during class.
In fact, it’s mildly astonishing that the Coeur d’Alene School Board is even debating what to do about these devices.
Worse, after one round of discussions Monday night, it seemed to emerge that three of five board members are leaning toward some version of the status quo — letting kids keep their phones all day, and asking them nicely not to be texting or sending Snapchat photos during history class.
The school board’s debate seems to be heading so far down the wrong road that we’re going to help; first, by explaining why students keeping phones all day is wrong for two huge reasons, and second, by giving the district a sensible solution that should satisfy all parties involved.
Why should students have to give up their phones during class?
Start with the fact that it’s totally unfair to teachers.
Instead of explaining math or science as they were trained to do, you’re turning them into glorified hall monitors, eyeballing the room for some renegade texter.
Teachers need to be taken completely off the hook.
The second reason is that study after study has proven that the closer you are to your smartphone — even if it’s TURNED OFF — the worse your focus becomes on whatever else you’re doing.
Here’s an example of some fairly stunning evidence, as quoted in the Wall Street Journal:
“Researchers recruited 520 undergraduates at the University of California, San Diego, and gave them two standard tests of intellect.
“One test gauged how fully a person’s mind can focus on a particular task. The second assessed a person’s ability to interpret and solve an unfamiliar problem.
“The only variable in the experiment was the location of the subjects’ smartphones.
“Some of the students were asked to place their phones in front of them on their desks; others were told to stow their phones in their pockets or handbags; still others were required to leave their phones in a different room.
“The results were striking. In both tests, the subjects whose phones were in view posted the worst scores, while those who left their phones in a different room did the best. The students who kept their phones in their pockets or bags came out in the middle.”
“As the phone’s proximity increased, brainpower decreased.”
SO HOW do you enforce a “no smartphone” rule in a large public school, without unfairly penalizing students, or parents who want to reach their kids?
And do it without setting any needless, arbitrary consequences that will never satisfy everyone?
Have students and guardians sign a release form at the beginning of the school year, holding the district blameless if a smartphone is stolen or damaged on school grounds. (To run no risk, bring no phone.)
Put a basket or tub of some kind on a table at the entrance to every classroom.
When students enter, their phones go into the basket. They’re picked up at the end of class and, yes, they can be used during passing periods and at lunch.
If parents have sent a message, it will be read or heard right after class.
In a true emergency, there would have been a call to the school, anyway.
Meanwhile, kids’ phones would only be out of sight and out of mind when it matters...
When they need to focus on classwork.
Maybe the answer to this whole argument is pretty simple, after all.
CORRECTION: In Wednesday’s column the name of a call center in Silver Lake Mall was misidentified. The correct name is SPi CRM. Apologies!
Steve Cameron is a columnist for The Press.