Saturday, May 13, 2006

Cell Ban Causes Uproar

New York's School Cell Phone Ban Causes Uproar

NEW YORK (May 12) - A ban on cell phones in the nation's biggest school system is creating an uproar among parents and students alike, with teenagers smuggling their phones inside their lunches and under their clothes, and grown-ups insisting they need to stay in touch with their children in case of another crisis like Sept. 11.


Finally, someone is taking a principled stand against cellular insanity and inanity in public places. If the children could control their telephonic comportment, this kind of measure would not be necessary. But few children today have any sense of boundaries or limits on their use of technologies. Many are fully-wired zombies, who stalk about while absent where they are, but "present" with someone else through text or voice. Or they are not present at all except in the virtual world of video games or other video entertainment (which is often gruesome, destestable, and ungodly beyond civil description). They are dis-incarnating themselves from locality, physicality, and spatiality. This is good for neither soul nor body.

As Neil Postman argued in "Teaching as a Conserving Activity" (1979), the classroom should be thermostatic (and not chameleon-like). It should correct the abuses found in other aspects of culture. It should conserve what the culture is losing, "restore the ancient ruins," to wax biblical. So, it must honor unmediated physical and mental presence; it must honor the text over the image; it must honor the live voice over recorded noise; it must honor exposition over entertainment; it must honor the dialogue and discourse practiced through centuries of teaching-and-learning and reject prefabricated, formulaic presentations; it must honor the face-to-face over the face-to-screen.

In fact, the church should do the same thing. "Remember to turn off your cell phones." Remember to turn on your minds, open your ears, and, as Jesus said, "Consider how you hear."


Susan said...

"Please turn off your cell phones during the service" was flashed repeatedly, with equally memorable graphics, on two big video screens at the front of the sanctuary, before the service at the church I visited last week.

I wanted to call back to the sound/video booth on my cell phone and request,

"Please turn off the video during the worship, and I'll turn off my cell phone..."

Douglas Groothuis, Ph.D. said...

It's medium verses medium, and each medium for itself.

"Overmediation" is the new disorder of choice--and habit.

Douglas Groothuis, Ph.D. said...

Mindless phrases abound: "like," "you know," "I mean," "Umm," "stuff," and more. Sadly, we even hear them from the pulpit and behind the lecturn. This is another indication of a lack of oratorical discipline. Since words bombard us everywhere all the time, we think we should be producing them all the time, even when they have no meaning and are ugly. Our words, spoken and written, should aim at truth and beauty. They should not befoul the air.

Pastor Erik said...

I openly rebuke people who interrupt conversation by answering their phones.
I have been know to steal Blackberries and throw them from car windows.
I will stand silently from the pulpit while the cell phone rings from the congregation. Then I will draw attention to that person. People say I'm mean and ungracious with such behavior.
But I just ignore them and continue with my, like, awesome text message to my, you know, wife, and then I, like, totally look at them, like, what? And they like totally walk away.

Craig Fletcher said...

I recently received some "manager training" from my employer, and one of the slogans we learned was "Be Here Now". They even handed out little desktop widgets that say "Be Here Now" on them to remind us.

The idea is that we need to practice being totally engrossed in the moment. If we are talking to someone, we focus entirely on them. No phones, no text messages, no radio, no TV, no computer monitor with a "you've got mail" thingy popping up, no worrying in your mind about yesterday or tomorrow or daydreaming about something completely different, just complete attentive devotion to the person you are talking with, OR the task you are working on.

Since I have become more aware of this, I am amazed at how often I find myself not doing this. I also think that a lack of focus on others (during conversation) is why we/I tend to interrupt others, because we/I are/am thinking of my response, all the while missing the content of my partners speech. It's a way of positioning ourselves in a conversation.

Someone just called me 5 minutes ago at my desk and I found myself looking at my computer screen and reading these very blogs while on the phone. Ahh!! I reached up and turned off the monitor!!

I have also confessed Dr. G that I have found myself reading emails on my cell phone WHILE DRIVING DOWN THE STREET!

My problem is, I always have this idea that there is "so much to do" and technology "makes me more productive". While this is true in a sense, technology is also a plague-like diversion. It keeps me from progressing in learning because it keeps me from reading books as often as I should and it makes it hard to concentrate on one thing at a time, and doing that one thing WELL!

These are bad habits that must die, and we must keep our children from every developing them in the first place.

Douglas Groothuis, Ph.D. said...

"Be here now" was the title of a book by Ram Dass (formerly Dr. Richard Albert, before taking LSD), published about thirty years ago. The worldview taught there is pantheism.

However, we can use the insight about attending to the moment, focusing on one thing at a time (diminish multi-tasking--ADD), and honoring the personal presence of human beings--and even God, the supremely personal Being (who alone can do everything at once).

Blaise Pascal has a brilliant quote on how we usually fail to do this. I will try to find it (the real thing) and post it.