Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Why Don'tcha Call Me Sometime?

Two stories out of the 'big smoke' area of Ontari-ari-ari-o this week about the impact of hi-tech on small minds.

The first from one of TO's bedroom communities is about a coterie of teenagers who, disliking some of the things going on at their high school (like banning in-class cell phones) decided to slag the principal on an on-line forum. He found out about it and a round of school suspensions ensued. No problem thus far. It's the results that are disturbing. There have been at least two follow-up stories in the newspapers about the 'innocent' school council president unfairly targeted by a vindictive administration who are putting his academic future in some doubt. He'd signed up for the group account but never posted, or even read, any of the material, or so he claims. Another kid admitted using foul language to describe the principal, but she was "mad" because he wouldn't solve a problem for her. The kids also claimed that, because they did their slagging away from school, it shouldn't count as a school offense and impinges on their right of 'free speech'.

Without putting too fine a point on it - it's just the ignorance of youth. Somebody should teach them about slander, and being a Catholic school one might have thought they would have been exposed to knowledge that calumny was one of the seven , soul-destroying, deadly sins. One gets the feeling that this isn't over yet. I think that principal now has a 'black mark' rather than a 'feather in his cap' - not conducive to a bright administrative future. The parents I think will be forming a child-protection league to get him at future Board meetings. Their kids seem to have learned nothing positive - other than to make their posts anonymously.

The second incident from a Toronto elementary school had some young bullies picking on a disabled classmate. One of them was thoughtful enough to get an mpeg on his cell phone and take it home for posting for some fun on U-Tube. Of course it got out and the children involved received 'consequences appropriate to their age' etc. That's administrator-speak for one hug, or two. The problem, as in the first case, is the ubiquitous cell phone.

Never before have human beings been more connected than through the marvel of portable communication. Of course, even given all the benefits - emergency use, reporting and recording events, etc, there's a whole nuther down side - loss of privacy, distraction, and of course the dumb things the jejeune have historically tried with the phone, but now well away from supervision. Many schools are banning the little suckers, although parents, or some of them, have this emotional need to know that little Bubba, or Bubbette, is only a call away from parental concern, support, love, etc. in case they get kidnapped by the big bad...

But you know, if the kid decides they're going off with a stranger, they'll probably turn off that phone, or give it up. What the phone has done is create situations in which over-emotional Moms and Dads can do some really stupid stuff for their kids and to the detriment of everybody else's. Like the circus that ensued after the shooting of a staff member at a Toronto area school a year or so back, or at the report of a sex assault in a Toronto school this year, or at the college in Montreal. Parents can really get in the way, and a cell phone call can do that.

Never mind the fact that the kid knows enough to do some really childish stuff with that phone like recording in-class as a parent information tool. Or to record some interesting event like a gang bang, a blow job or a beating. Parents, and I'll bet the ones belonging to the kids mentioned above are among them, are reticent to 'handicap' their kids by taking their 'toys' away. They'll want the system to make allowances for it.

And I'm all for that, provided parents can be held liable for any harm done by their electronically-gifted progeny. But like kids and cars, that's just not gonna happen either. More's the pity.

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