A few months ago, I wrote about proposed House Bill 363 in Pennsylvania, which, in its current wording, would effectively ban cell phones and computers in public schools statewide. I wrote a letter to my local state representative in which I voiced some very specific concerns over the possibility that this bill would become law (I included a copy of my letter in the post linked above).
I actually received a reply from my representative (along with a handwritten note apologizing for the delay in responding). I won’t quote the letter in its entirety, but the main thrust of her response was this: Rep. Paul Clymer, Republican Chairman of the House Education Committee, plans to introduce legislation in the near future that exempts electronic devices “used for solely educational purposes from the ban in House Bill 363”. My representative stated that she would support such language.
Well, it’s a step in the right direction, I guess, to correct the semantic flaws in the language of the original bill, but for some reason this still doesn’t sit well with me. It’s entirely possible that I’m reading too much into this, but I’m getting stuck on “used for solely educational purposes”. I haven’t seen the language of Rep. Clymer’s bill, but based on this response, it sounds like the only difference is that laptops, netbooks, and digital cameras will no longer be unintentionally excluded; it doesn’t speak at all to the creative implementation of other technologies (e.g., mobile phones) and still, in my interpretation, indicates a lack of faith that individual teachers can appropriately implement technology in their classes (and, in a way, completely absolves them of that responsibility/opportunity).
Like I said, maybe I’m reading too much into this. I suppose it’s also entirely possible that this law will only be selectively enforced. Guess we’ll have to see.
I have two problems with this bill and the exemption.
1) A state is making laws banning devices which are not inherently dangerous. “Electronic devices” can be distracting and used inappropriately. However the potential improvement to the learning environment that any electronic devices (including things like cell phones & iPods) might effect seems to be enough reason to not pass this bill. Given the choice between a sharp pencil and a cell phone, I’d take the cell phone. Then I can at least call for help when someone stabs themselves with the sharp pencil.
2) The exemption waters down the bill so that it won’t matter whether it’s passed or not. Schools that are open to the learning possibilities cell phones allow will exempt cell phones because they fit into the “educational” category. Schools that aren’t open to that possibility will ban cell phones because they’re “distracting” to the students’ education. It’s another example of politicians “tackling the issues” without really addressing the big issue.
Ben Wildeboer’s last blog post..When frustration is a good thing