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Cell phone taking and moneymaking at county schools

August 25, 2005|by TIM ROWLAND

Commentary

Good morning kiddos, and welcome to the first day back at school, a time where you will once again crack the ole textbooks, renew old friendships and see who among you will step forward and be the first one in your new class to have her cell phone confiscated.

You know about three of your friends are going to lose theirs to the school Cell Phone Nazis on the first day - just pray that it doesn't happen to you. Don't want to spend the rest of the semester making up stories to tell your parents when they ask you why you are no longer spending an estimated 14 hours a day with a piece of electronics epoxied to your ear.

Indeed, probably 70 percent of the parents out there would not recognize their own teen without a metallic object protruding from the side of their faces.

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But by now, you have to realize that cell phones are not appreciated in school. Worse, teachers actually take a sort of animalistic satisfaction of ripping a phone out of a kid's hands and offering it up to the school disciplinarian, like a sacrifice to the God of Not Paying Attention. So, if you are one of the unfortunates who has the cell snatched on opening day, here, as a public service from me, your Uncle Tim, are three useful excuses you can toss out in the face of parental interrogation:

1. I read that prolonged cell phone use leads to brain cancer.

2. I'm saving my minutes for marriage.

3. I loaned it to Jesus.

Parents aren't likely to be too upset, though, considering a teen's cell-phone loss will save the family about $200 off the monthly phone bill. And they aren't likely to replace it because by this time, they have learned that the teen's main argument for having a phone - "But dad, if I have a phone, you'll be able to reach me any time you want" - is a nonstarter because when you call your kid on the cell phone, they NEVER answer, specifically because they know it is you on the other end of the line.

Of course, it's tougher for teachers to catch kids with their phone these days due to a fairly recent technological advancement. A student who appears to be concentrating heavily on his math book may actually just be "text messaging" or typing out little abbreviated notes to each other on the phone keypad.

As a literary advancement, text messaging is right up there with Paul's letters to Timothy or the early works of Hemingway. Imagine, finding the archives of some great, future novelist and finding out that her early years consisted of penning memorable passages such as:

How r u?

I m gr8.

Text messaging is nothing new, really. The Native Americans did much the same thing with smoke signals. But the fascinating part is how we grab hold of new technologies because they are new, not because they are better. The phone replaced the written word because it was faster. So now we're using our phones to send written words, which are slower. Very smart.

With text messaging, what would have amounted to a three-second phone conversation is efficiently transformed into a 10-minute, carpal tunnel-causing, excruciatingly tedious process of tiny-little-button pushing.

So this is the teenage clay that the teachers must mold into something useful and productive. And certainly, I do not mean to overlook all the hard-working teachers on this first day of school.

I remember my teachers fondly, as they would energetically scrub the blackboards, neatly organize the classroom supplies and - after getting one look at us - figure out where they were going to hide their flask.

Some of you teachers are new to the system this year, having been lured here by a compensation package that seemed too good to be true. And was. Apparently, some of you teachers took the job on the understanding that you would be paid in something called "money." But after further review, the School Board said it was all a big mistake and that, after you fulfill your first full year of teaching here, you will be entitled to a pay cut.

I don't blame the board. Seems to me a pretty savvy way to solve the teacher-shortage crisis. Just tell applicants you pay $100,000 a year. Then after they move here, you say "Whoops, what we meant to say was that you will be paid in sacks of wheat and lumps of coal for your stove, like what they gave Laura Ingalls Wilder in 'Little House on the Prairie.'"

But by now, I'm sure all of you new teachers have talked to the teachers who have been around for a while and have been assured that as a rule, this board doesn't make mistakes, so the pay gaffe was a one-in-a-million occurrence.

Believe me, 10 years from now you'll get a good laugh out of this - as you're driving to your new job in Frederick County.

Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist.

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