A newly proposed regulation from the Osaka prefectural government would ban students from using cell phones at primary, middle and high schools. The draft proposal of the government’s Education Resuscitation Council, established by former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, also recommends banning cell phones, a policy supported by the current Education Minister Ryu Shionoya.
The ban is an attempt to reduce bullying through cell phones and student-created Web sites, as well as to stem what the Minister for Internal Affairs and Communications Kunio Hatoyama called a “loss of humanity in users.” These concerns are valid ones and education officials are clearly despairing over a serious problem made worse by tech-savvy youngsters.
However, a ban is not likely to produce positive long-term improvements. Banning cell phones does not succeed in teaching students how, when and where an adult would use a cell phone. The idea that schools can and should control all aspects of students’ lives, whether clothing, conduct or attitude, with more and stricter rules is rather outdated. When such rules are imposed, students quickly learn fugitive skills: how to hide things, how to lie to teachers, how to skirt around the rules. In this techno age, rules are all the easier to break.
Students will always find a place, actual or virtual, to interact with peers, but they must be shown that nonadolescent input, from teachers, books, and other sources is truly meaningful and valuable. The exclusion of cell phones inside the classroom can help students focus on the excitement of learning new ways of thinking, broadening their knowledge, sharpening their critical skills, and engaging in face-to-face communication. But outside the classroom, they can be left alone.
Cell phones may contribute in part to a loss of humanity, but banning them will not automatically lead to a recovery of humanity. Only education can do that. If education were more relevant to students’ lives and dispensed with greater enthusiasm, students would respond and put down their cell phones long enough to discover the value of education. The burden, though, is on educators to create better classes and find better ways to teach, not control, students. A rigid ban on carrying cell phones is a strikingly poor example for students of how to solve problems.
In a time of both misinformation and too much information, quality journalism is more crucial than ever.
By subscribing, you can help us get the story right.