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Monday, August 12, 2019

Luddite

Grace started high school last week. Thus far she is enjoying herself, and I think the structured schedule is going to do her a lot of good. I expected the transition to be stressful for me for a variety of reasons. It is hard to relinquish control to a bunch of strangers who may or may not share your vision of education. What I did not expect is how much technology would play a leading role in my stress.

Grace, gasp, does not have a smartphone. We did not intend for her to have a smartphone. I think smartphones for teenagers are a bad idea for a number of reasons, YMMV.

We do, however, understand that the expectations for communication are different now so she does need phone access. We intended, at the beginning of July before band camp started, to reactivate my old slider dumbphone that I used until 2015. The phone is in fine working order and would perfectly fit her need to make the occasional phone call and text as necessary. When we investigated getting my old phone re-added to our cell phone account, we discovered the 3G network is being discontinued, and thus they will not activate the phone. The only dumbphone on offer with our cellphone company is one and only one flip phone. The problem with this flipphone is that the main task she would use the device for--texting--is troublesome with the three letters per button setup. We temporarily tabled the decision essentially because I was mad and needed to calm down.

How can it be possible that the cell phone companies refuse to offer a decent, basic phone for the use of teenagers and others who do not need to carry a $700 mini-computer. They must know that many parents are hesitant to dump their children into the world of constant connection. They also must know that if they withhold the lesser devices a parent might be looking for, it will push parents, who do not want to deprive their children, into buying more expensive devices. Then they offer "parental controls" to assuage concern. Good Luck! And like the Disney Channel star who spectacularly melts down, it's a feature and not a bug when the controls inevitably fail.

Breathe.

School began this week with the phone decision still unmade. On the second day of school, Grace forgot her premade lunch due to the early hour and new routine. I ran it over to the school, and the secretary casually told me to text her so she'd know her lunch was in the office. That's ominous. Why would the secretary expect Grace to be able to receive a text? Shouldn't she, uh, not have her phone on during school hours? Of course, she doesn't have a phone and I told the secretary such. Not to worry, she reassured me. She'd get Grace her lunch.

Grace had to charge a hot lunch because they didn't bother to call her to the office until lunch was over.

Breathe.

Her classes, so far, are the expected assortment of enjoyable ones mixed with frustrating ones. However in two classes, there is a very distinct and distressing trend and it goes something like this:
Class, get your phone out and...
The first class, Speech, expects the students to look up whatever the teacher tells them to find, and then they are supposed to reference it as he continues his lecture. I am vexed. Is there a reason this has to be done on individual devices? Why can't the teacher project his own device on a screen? Is the lack of a personal phone an annoyance or a hindrance?

The second class, AP Human Geography, taught by the football coach, cough, has yet to issue a textbook or a class website or much of any source material at all. He has, however, given homework assignments and copious free time in class for the students to "research" their answers on their own personal phones. (Yes, they are randomly googling and writing down whatever they find.) There are two computers in the class for student use and about 25 students needing internet access. If you don't get a class computer and don't have a phone, you are then entitled to stare at the ceiling for 30 minutes and do homework later that night.

This is enraging to me. How dare they try to force my hand in this decision. They, the cell phone companies and the school, are happily skipping down the primrose path and expect me to just follow along. The very idea that a public high school would expect their students to all have access to their own personal smartphones so teachers can lazily avoid the basic tasks of teaching makes my blood boil.

I might be overreacting.

The current decision on the table is whether or not to get the substandard flipphone or acquiesce to popular expectation against my better judgement. Dave is more reasonable than I. I am stubborn. But I am not the one bearing the immediate consequences of the decision, even if I definitely think I am right in the long term.

So what do you do? Do you shell out a large sum of money for something you don't want to buy and think is actively harmful--even if the rest of the world thinks you are crazy? Or do you fight a losing battle, class after class after class, with your child having to continually identify herself as The One Who Does Not Have A SmartPhone? I wish I knew.

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