07 January, 2008

How I want to keep this in my syllabi

Here's a rant in the current drafts of my Spring syllabi. It probably won't remain, but I desperately wish I could keep it there inviolate:

My beef with mobile phones

Mobile phones are not merely useful for business, they are by now necessary.

For personal use, however, they a curse on the human race. We lived for thousands of years without them and never once felt a pressing need to interrupt a class, a worship service, or a business meeting so as to remind someone of our undying love. The vast majority of communications sent by mobile phones constitute a waste of time and an insult to human intelligence. Why else would the manufacturers invest so much energy selling them to teenagers?

Imagine! Lovers once waited days or even weeks before a letter arrived from one's beloved. They then waited days or even weeks to send and receive replies. This includes people who lived down the street! We once considered it a virtue to reflect silently before speaking. After all, an intelligent answer requires one to think before speaking.

By contrast, modernity's morons consider a silent pause before someone answers a question to be a mark of ignorance, dishonesty, even mental deficiency. How can a person care more about a phone's looks than about the quality of the words breathed into that phone? As the enemy of elegant speech and intelligent conversation, mobile phones, along with popular music and television, have done more to contribute to the decline of discretion, intimacy, and privacy than any common gossip, media outlet, or government surveillance program could hope to do.

No one will ever appoint me world dictator, so I cannot ban them from the face of the earth. I am, however, the classroom dictator. As such, I hereby ban them from my classroom, so: turn off your phone before entering the classroom.
  • If your phone rings, your are an inconsiderate clod; I will make a nasty face and ask you to turn it off.
  • If you talk or text on the cell phone once the class has started, you are an ignorant boor who does not respect his fellow students, and deserves none in return; I will ask you to leave.
  • If you insist on wearing that stupid earring of the technological age, you are a slave of fashion, not a student of mathematics; I will ask you to leave.
Now that we have this out of the way, let's starting thinking.


Clemens said...

Just edit it down - then include it.

But you didn't mention anything about the clods who bring their laptops to 'take notes' and then play video games through the class. And end up wondering why they did so poorly on the exams.

I might have to go for something similar.

jack perry said...

I took your advice, editing it down slightly. I kept the reference to "modernity's morons" although I probably shouldn't have.

I haven't observed a problem with laptops, but the lowest class I teach here is Calculus, which implies a certain level of sanity. It's hard to take math notes on a laptop.