Cellphones in school and other things “unnecessary”

At a family wedding over the weekend, one of my very successful, all-grown-up daughters was having a conversation with some middle-aged couples about the old days.

She wondered out loud what it must have been like to live during a time without cellphones and text messages, when people had to get along “just on regular phones and fax machines.”

Our table-mates quickly reminded her that faxes are relatively new (and mostly passé already).

It is amazing that civilization sustained itself for thousands of years without the benefit of cellphones, text messages, Facebook and Twitter-and even fax machines.

From Moses to Jesus Christ to Joan of Arc; George Washington to Martin Luther King to John Kennedy, the vast majority of the most important figures in world and American history existed without the things that today are considered necessities.

At a West suburban high school, there is a new rule this fall concerning students' use of cellphones.

Under the policy at Hinsdale Central, students are allowed to keep their cellphones with them at all times, permitted to use the phones for talking or texting during study halls, lunch, while passing between classes and at other “noninstructional” times.

Students also are allowed to use their cellphones in class if the teacher permits.

The explanation by school administrators is that if students are given the right to use their phones outside of class, they will be less tempted to use them during class (unless of course the teacher says OK).

The assistant principal told a local newspaper “we recognize that students will use their cellphones. What were saying is ‘We'll work with you.'”


Of course students will use their cellphones ... if you allow them.

They will also go to Wrigley Field or the beach instead of class if you don't take attendance.

“We'll work with you” sounds as though the two sides are at the bargaining table, like GM and the UAW, hammering out a labor agreement.

What possible good can come from allowing students to have access to their cellphones during school hours?

Emergency party planning?

Monitor the point spreads on this weekend's college football games?

Text the boyfriend at another school?

Seriously, what is so important that any high school student has to have instantaneous communication with the outside world, all day, every day? Could anything be worth the distraction and commotion?

If there is a bona fide crisis at home or with a relative, the schools still have phones to receive calls and most employees have two feet on which to walk and are able to find any student at any time.

When cellphone use in schools comes up, administrators should respond with a one-word answer: Unnecessary.

Unnecessary can be the most powerful tool in an adult's behavioral toolbox.

It is the same word that parents, guardians, grandparents, caretakers, teachers, baby sitters and others who find themselves in charge of a snarky adolescent or know-it-all teenager should apply liberally.

Third graders with iPhones? Unnecessary.

8-year-olds trick or treating alone? Unnecessary.

11-year-olds up till midnight? Unnecessary

Freshman wants to sleep at girlfriend's? Unnecessary.

Sophomore spring break in Aruba? Unnecessary.

Sleepovers? Unnecessary.

High school graduation party kegs? Unnecessary

Go out at 11 p.m. to “find something to do?” Unnecessary.

Just to name a few.

Cellphones in school? Really unnecessary.

Ÿ Chuck Goudie, whose column appears each Monday, is the chief investigative reporter at ABC7 News in Chicago. The views in this column are his own and not those of WLS-TV. He can be reached email at, and