phones are the only subject on which men boast about who's got the
of the Day - August 6, 2006: Hertz Hurts. Guest commentary by Beverly
after the flurry of email pleas from students who were sure mediocre
performance was at
worth an A minus ended, I heard the voice
of my grandmother. Sure, she's been gone over thirty years but when the
published an article in June about presbycusis and an invention from the
UK I'm sure I heard Nana Beatrice say, "Oy. Another country heard
We are talking about The Country of the Young, The Country of Those
in Charge, The Country of People Who Think If You Make A Rule That
Takes Care of It, The Country of Old Educators.
Schools from K-24 have rules. They have to. What would happen if
they didn't? What happens is they very often have to change
the rule to match reality, or back off due to an embarrassing
mistake, or else face a legal challenge.
A small school in western Massachusetts bans Oakland Raiders jackets
because of gang violence 3000 miles away. In a Texas school if your
shirt is red, your pants and sneakers can't be. I don't know why.
A middle school in Georgia suspends a sixth grader under their zero
tolerance policy against weapons. Chains are weapons. She had a
Tweety Bird key chain dangling from her book bag.
After Columbine, our small southern county insisted on clear plastic
bookbags for everyone.
The first Walkmans made teachers crazy. All those secret music
enjoyers nodding in the hallways couldn't hear the question, "Where
are you supposed to be?" iPods. Beepers. Gold chains. All have
been forbidden in various places for various lengths of time.
A year later people realize too much energy is being spent being a
tee-shirt monitor. Often adults are unable to tell what the
heck some student just did or said or gestured. Obscene?
Harassment? Subversive? Dunno.
Now battles over cell phone possession
in K-12 institutions rage across the land. What to do? Confiscate?
Suspend? Indeed, a cell phone using scofflaw saves the day or a
It seems simple, especially at the university level. Cell phones.
Pack 'em and stow 'em.
There. I've set my boundaries. I'm old. What do I know?
On June 12th I read
A Ring Tone Meant to Fall on Deaf Ears
by Paul Vitello in the
New York Times.
to the general humiliations that come with being out of it around
young people, I learn about presbycusis. Likely I've got a raging
case of it. You might. And how would we know? Let's assume
it's inevitable that along with gravity winning on a daily basis,
it's safe to assume we all have "aging ears." Presbycusis:
a lessening of hearing acuteness resulting from degenerative changes
in the ear that occur especially in old age.
Add that new vocabulary word to the following technical truth.
Apparently, I have the Yugo of cell phones. I own it to
make a call from the side of the road if I get stuck somewhere.
I can press a few buttons and be rescued. A fine invention.
While I was trying to figure out how to get everyone I needed
onto speed dial, at least forty-two improvements in the
technology happened. I've been woefully ignorant of the ways
students can stay in touch with the outside world without me
I would love to believe I am
I fear they challenge themselves. They figure out how far
back in the classroom they have to sit to do the following and
get away with it:
a. keep phone on vibrate so as to not miss any calls
b. receive and send text messages while looking attentively
at the instructor
c. snap photographs of coeds in tempting tops and short
d. take and make actual phone calls by wearing a Bluetooth
in the ear covered by hair
Now, after reading the
New York Times
article I know there is yet another way to foil the prof,
another way to flip an attempt at policy on its keister.
A security company in Wales invented a high pitched sound
emitting gizmo aimed to scatter groups of lingering teens
from parking lots and convenience stores. Adults could shop
and move in comfort. The sound was way too high for geezers
(over thirty?) to hear. Dubbed the Mosquito, it was
designed to annoy the young'uns.
What else could it be used for? Why, a ring tone that
instructors can't hear. Brilliant!
After all, we're in college. We are not asking for bathroom
passes anymore. Everyone else in the class will know why
Vickie or Terrence is off to the restroom. I won't. Unless
the rest of the class has hit the floor holding their ears
Presbycusis: friend or foe?
© 2006 Beverly C. Lucey
Beverly Carol Lucey is a freelance writer who teaches writing and
communication at the University of Central Arkansas.
The IP comments: As one of
those geezers who has lost a fair bit of audio acuity at the higher
frequencies, the IP certainly can sympathize with Beverly.
Having a cell phone ring in the classroom is beyond annoying.
The IP's cell phone policy is fairly straightforward. I
require that all cell phones and pagers be silenced in class.
At one time I asked students to turn them off entirely, but I was
bombarded with pleas from students who absolutely had to be
reachable in case of family or work emergencies. However did
we survive before the invention of the cell phone? Now I only
require that the cell phones and pagers be off during exams.
The IP grew up at a time
when if you saw someone walking down the street who was engaged in
animated conversation with an invisible companion you assumed that
the person was mentally deranged. These days you can't tell.
It could be someone who has gone 'round the bend, but it also might
just be someone talking on their hands free device. That, in
and of itself, can be a bit unsettling.