Who didn’t see this coming? Schools are great regulators of student behavior, or at least strong proponents of attempting regulation. Naturally, the first instinct of school administrators was to view students’ use of cellphones as a bad thing. Now, the headlines announce that, hey, it might be a good thing since it facilitates communication between parents and children.
This frontpage Times Picayune story boldly explains this obvious fact. But since it is so obvious, what can else can you really say?
To me the story angle is that our society is facing the challenge of adopting new technologies at a breakneck pace, and in some cases we resist a technology that winds up actually being immensely helpful. I realize that this story angle lacks an ‘evil villan’ that is so integral to the Disneyland reality that most newspapers portray. The newspapers like the technique of profiling a bunch of people who say things both pro and con, which automatically demonstrates that the newspaper is “fair and balanced.” So that’s how they handled the story about cellphones being used by students.
On the pro side they give us the school principal saying that it was easier to give in to the onslaught of parents who wanted their kids to have cellphones. Cellphones promote communication between family members. This is good…blah, blah, blah. Then the paper goes on to show how cellphones promote safety because, for example, the some of the kids at Columbine were able to use cellphones to provide information to rescuers (followed, predictably, by the 9/11 airplane stories etc.).
Okay, so cellphone use by students is a good thing, right? No, remember, that would be a simplistic conclusion and no reputable newspaper would suggest that. And so they give us the con side, which leads to the inclusion of this passage:
Kenneth Trump, president of National School Safety and Security Services, a Cleveland, Ohio, consulting firm, said that in an emergency, students can use cell phones to spread harmful rumors farther and faster than in person. Parents might flock to the scene in a panic, hindering officials’ efforts to evacuate buildings. Wireless networks could get jammed, cutting off service to administrators and public safety authorities trying to respond.
Now on Page Two we would like to let you know that chainsaws are good for cutting down trees. Oh, but let’s get the other side of the story. Apparently, evil people like to use them to run around and chop up young teenage victims right as the soundtrack starts to play ominous music, which sends chills downs the spines of the theatre audience…
Later: and here is a story on increased student cheating because of the Internet. However, it’s by a weblogger so it doesn’t apply the typical formula.