This week’s column from Mr Harvey focuses on the evil of mobile phones in schools…
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God, but it’s hard growing up. The golden rule of adolescence – contrary to our own parent’s views that we had it easy – is that it gets harder for each generation. Our grandparents, as teenagers, only had to worry about the occasional cave-in or gas-explosion as they spent their summer-holidays toiling down the coal-mines. Our parents, though, had to watch out for dodgy acid and hula-hoops with razor-blades sewn on the inside by Taiwanese factory-workers with strange senses of humours.
As time goes on the rate at which being a kid becomes unpleasanter speeds up – for example, if you were a child in the 1970s then you had to watch out for your parents dressing you in shite clothes. Repeat the experience in the eighties, though, and not only was your shell-suit god-awful, style-wise, but was also liable to self-combust, igniting once the nylon and polyester had built up enough of a static charge.
But why do children nowadays have it bad? Admittedly, at first view, life in 2007 looks pretty idyllic; rabies is vaguely under control, all the kiddie-fiddlers are too busy setting up profiles on MySpace to actually do any damage and, even though your dad’s busy at the office all day, Optimus Prime has made a come-back, so that’s your father-figure taken care of.
Basically, it’s all to do with school.
I’m not talking exams here – the fact that by the time a sprog leaves secondary-school they’ve had more exams and mocks than they actually have had lessons is irrelevant. I’m not even blaming the fact that head-teachers these days often spend all their budget on electronic, interactive, multi-media white-boards which they then stick in the 40 year-old portacabins that pass for classrooms these days.
I’m not even pointing my finger at the fact that so many playing-fields have been sold off that the leading cause of death for kids these days has changed, in the last ten years, from ‘Tripped and fell over his untied shoelaces, just like I said he wouldÃ¢â‚¬Â to being ‘Knocked down and killed whilst on a cross-country run down the hard-shoulderÃ¢â‚¬Â.
What has made school hell these days is the common-or-garden mobile telephone.
Communication these days is easy and instant but mostly superficial, and, let’s face it, why bitch about someone behind their back when you can do it via text? Schoolkids love three things above all else – sugar, nicotine and gossip. Sugar they can only get their hands on at the vending-machines between 9am and 3am, because at home Mummy won’t let them have anything sweet, lest they turn out as fat as Daddy. Nicotine they can only get when they leave school (God bless the traditional ice-cream-van that dishes out fags outside the gates. At mine, Mr. Sospan did a roaring trade with a cornet that had a Benson and Hedges in place of the flake).
Gossip, though, is now a 24 hour-a-day trade, enabled, powered and encouraged by mobiles.
Allow me to elaborate – in ye olden days (nostalgia isn’t what it used to be), a rumour could go round the school just as fast as you can whisper it. These days – this terrible, terrible future – you can irrecoverable libel a fellow pupil as being a PE-teacher-bonking deviant to the entire school with a few tiny jolts of your thumb.
Mobiles have rapidly grown (perhaps “festered” is a better word…) from being an irritant to teachers into being a weapon with which to oppress them. In the last two or three years the handsets that sprogs take to school, the hand-me-downs from elder siblings, have obviously started to feature cameras and video features. In an environment like school, where the merest taint of individuality or difference is instantly latched upon and exploited most ruthlessly the ability to document and share these infractions is – for the vicious little squits – priceless
Well, actually, it’s not priceless, because it’s perfectly easy to assign a price to it – 8 pence a time…
I do a lot of work with Virtual Learning Environments and as such often have the opportunity to talk to teachers about this. Their reactions can be grouped in three distinct camps:
1. White-lipped, fulminating rage. Teachers used to have authority in the classroom – now it’s the other way around. When you’ve got 30 pocket-sized CCTV sets pointing at you, you sort of have to watch your step.
2. Amazement. The sort of teacher that wasn’t quite aware of what sort of technological heat their little darlings were packing is also the unwitting star of a hundred different YouTube postings detailing in forensic detail their dandruff, or their morning-registration delirium-tremens, or the disgusting tufts of cat-hair that bedeck their cardigans like the driven snow. Or in the case of Geography teachers, all of the above.
3. Laughter. This is usually from clued-up ITC teachers who’ve bought mobile-phone jammers off some Russian e-bay and thus are as shielded as the star-trek crews they so worship.
But – if mobiles are so damaging to the social development of our youth (which they are) and are so destructive to the careers of our teachers (which they are) and so very expensive that the pay-as-you-go charges take money out of the pockets of those poor, honest, hard-working, cigarette-selling ice-cream men (which they do) then why don’t we ban them from educational establishments altogether?
Because this is Britain, and that means that the finest lesson any kid can learn is to take a beating. And these days, that means having a photo of you getting wedgied broadcast through MySpace, YouTube, Facebook and the entire school intranet all at the same time.
As a wise man once said – the sound of children laughing is the sweetest thing an adult ear can hear…just so long as you can’t hear exactly what it is that the little bastards are laughing about…