phones are the only subject on which men boast about who's got the smallest."... ...Neil
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 from."
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.
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.
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.
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?
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 life
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:
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 noticing.
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
a. keep phone on vibrate so as to not miss any calls
b. receive and send text messages while looking attentively at
c. snap photographs of coeds in tempting tops and short skirts
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
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 in pain.
Presbycusis: friend or foe?
© 2006 Beverly
Beverly Carol Lucey is a freelance writer who teaches writing and
communication at the University of Central Arkansas.
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.