Call me Amish, but a ban on phones in class is a good call
The arguments for allowing the pesky things at school don't really stand up
Ring ring. Chirrup chirrup. Boom shaka boom. No play, no concert, no intimate dinner, no solemn occasion is now complete without the impertinent interruption of a phone.
Even the nuptials of Princess Eugenie were enlivened by the ringing of a phone during Andrea Bocelli’s rendition of a sacred aria. Phones have become our comfort blankets, our transitional objects, our imaginary friends – extensions of our personalities from which it is unthinkable that we should be separated, even for the brief space of time that it takes a princess to marry a brand ambassador for George Clooney’s former tequila company.
Given their ubiquity, it is a bold teacher who tries to ban phones from the classroom, yet at Eton the headmaster, Simon Henderson, who introduced a trial ban at the start of the academic year, is facing furious resistance from his own teaching staff, who are reported to have criticised it as “Luddite” and “Amish”.
Well, call me Amish, but the idea of removing phones from the sticky grasp of pupils during the school day – along with their catapults, cigarettes, stink bombs, drugs, etc – strikes me as wholly beneficial for everyone concerned.
The pro-phone faction among the Eton beaks argues that phones are an “amazing” classroom resource, and pupils will think the ban “fuddy-duddy”.
As to the latter point, I suppose that pupils who wear with perfect equanimity a school uniform of morning coat and white tie may not be excessively bothered by the retro aspects of relinquishing their phones during lessons. (An existing overnight ban on phones for Year 9 boys was received with relief, rather than outrage, according to Henderson.)
The argument for phones as a useful resource seems stronger in theory; but in practice, I wonder. Even if diligent Etonians can resist the temptation to check their social media during lessons, the use of phones as research tools is necessarily a solitary activity – fine during private study, but at odds with the collaborative atmosphere of a classroom. As the clever beaks at Eton could remind us, the word “education” derives from the Latin, meaning to nourish, lead, or draw out.
Technology, properly used, is a marvellous thing, but it is no substitute for the nourishment, the drawing out, of a lively dialogue with an inspiring teacher.
– © Telegraph Media Group Limited (2018)