I'm not being rude. I'm just asking that you taste your own medicine. That you stop communicating in your preferred way. Stop talking, stop writing, stop reading, stop all those conversations you have in the school corridors, at restaurants, on the phone, at the market.
And remember, we'll be watching:
"It is time for every single member of the BF Community to take a stand! There is absolutely no reason for any middle school student to be a part of a social networking site!" Orsini wrote in a widely circulated email to his student's parents.
"Let them know that you will at some point every week be checking their text messages online! You have the ability to do this through your cell phone provider.
"Let them know that you will be installing Parental Control Software so you can tell every place they have visited online, and everything they have instant messaged or written to a friend. Don't install it behind their back, but install it!"
University of Maryland researchers were widely reported to have found human communication addictive. That's not really what the study indicated, but it is what was reported, finding its way into the most recent of the monthly New York Times article about trying to break students of the awful habit of communicating with each other, and taking in information about the world.
None of this surprising. People were horrified when teenagers began talking on the phone in the 1950s, and they flipped out when the phone moved from the front hall of the home to kids' bedrooms.
Of course they didn't like kids hanging out on the corner, or at the drive-in, or cruising down the Main Street either - often passing laws against these dangerous behaviours.
I've tried to say, many times, that we as humans are tool users, specifically communication tool users, and that texting, social media, etc., are nothing "new" or "different" conceptually. Socrates was, after all, right. Literacy would interfere with face to face human communication, it would "dehumanize" knowledge. But Socrates was wrong. Literacy did not destroy human learning. Neither will any form of communication. Yes, there may be etiquette issues, but that's a matter for negotiation (and, is usually a question of power relationships, not rudeness).
Anthony Orsini probably doesn't know enough about social media, or children, to understand any of this. Like many, he is afraid. He is terrified that the kids in his charge know more than he does, that they can do things he cannot do, that they are talking about him behind his back. He is afraid that "these kids" are not exactly like him, so maybe, his skills and capabilities don't matter much anymore. He is terrified of becoming obsolete.
I'm not here to minimize fear. It is one incredibly powerful emotion, and it often trumps reason. But I am here to say to all adults who interact with kids - if you want them to "go without" their preferred communication tools, strategies, and methods - that you better be prepared to do the same. Kids give up facebook? You give up your books, newspapers, and NPR. Kids give up texting? You give up talking.
See how it feels.
Then sit down with those kids - or text them - and discuss what communication means.
- Ira Socol