By DAN VALENTI
PLANET VALENTI News and Commentary
(FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE, TUESDAY, MAY 21, 2013) — Yesterday, THE PLANET printed a Letter to the Editor from Varsity Mom, who confirmed what we’ve been hearing about the misuse of smart technology in Pittsfield’s high schools and middle schools. In more than a few classrooms, teachers who don’t want to be bothered or who, valuing good recommendations over actual teaching, would rather let kids rule the roost, allow their pupils to use personal smart devices (Kindles, iPods, smart phones) to text and surf the Internet in class. To be clear, this use does not pertain to the school’s official use of the Internet, which, of course, has a proper place in the classroom.
Varsity Mom brings up a vital point about the “learning” experience in city schools: It’s not happening at a $90-$100-million level, which is the amount taxpayers cough up to pay “professionals” to run the opaque Pittsfield School Department. One of the key breakdowns in learning occurs in the classroom itself. Without a serious, respectful, and disciplined classroom environment, learning simply cannot happen.
Most Kids Want to Learn, but the Bad Actors are Allowed to Wreck It for Them
THE PLANET grants that most kids in a given classroom want to learn. We also grant that most teachers want to teach. The intrusiveness of the new technology, however, coupled with the administration’s refusal to implement reasonable policies in the use of these ever-smarter portable devices, spell academic doom. No amount of wallpapering over poor performance via grade inflation and fake achievement scores will save the city from continued academic mediocrity. It takes only one or two punks in a classroom to ruin if for everyone. This being Pittsfield, too often the small minority of delinquents receive carte blanche to send everyone else — the good kids — into the porcelain commode.
This must stop.
Varsity Mom’s solutions would cost no additional money to implement. The simple response from the school administration to this problem should be to absolutely forbid ANY independent, unauthorized use of personal, portable technology within the classroom. An alert teacher with eyes peeled for the errant smart phone or Kindle can easily spot a kid sneaking texts to a boyfriend or surfing Internet porn. Come down on such violations, hard, and the problem goes away.
PLANET Seeks Official Reaction
THE PLANET has sent a copy of Varsity Mom’s letter to:
* Every member of the school committee (Alf Barbalunga, Kathy Amuso, Kathy Yon, Dan Elias, Jim Conant, Terry Kinnas, and Dan Bianchi)
* Interim supt. Gordon Noseworthy
* Deputy supt. N. Tracy Crowe
* Asst. Supt. Kristen Behnke, and
* Asst. Supt. Frank Cote inviting their comments.
Here is a copy of what we sent:
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MY RIGHT HONORABLE GOOD FRIENDS
I would like, for the record, your response to VARSITY MOM’s concerns. Specifically, is this in fact happening, that students are allowed in some classrooms to use personal smart devices, during class time, unsupervised? What is the PSD official policy? What are you going to do about this problem? What do you say to taxpayers? Please respond freely and in a manner that best reflects your position.
We shall be publishing the responses and identifying those who choose not to respond, that is to say, who choose to ignore the problem and snub citizens, constituents, and taxpayers. THE PLANET shall give them the week to formulate their answers.
Thus far, we have responses from Amuso, Conant, and Kinnas. We shall be sharing these and any other comments we receive toward the end of the week.
We also have received a couple of e-mails from parents (one of a high schooler, one middle school) who have experienced the same problem as Varsity Mom reports. One says the administration blew her off when she raised this question. The other said when she was afraid to speak out because of an experience with another of her children. It seems issues she raised during a parent-teacher conference met with resistance and resulted in punishment of the student because his mom spoke up.
The fact that improper use of “smart” technology by students is bad enough, but when parents try to address the problem and are ignored, or, worse, when they won’t speak up because of retaliatory fear, it’s time for serious change.
We invite your comments on this situation, our dear readers, as well. The more this matter comes out into the open, the more likely the situation has a chance to be addressed in a meaningful way.
“The green-blue ground / is ruled with silver lines / to say the sun is shining.” — William Carlos Williams, “On Gay Wallpaper.”
“OPEN THE WINDOW, AUNT MILLIE.”
LOVE TO ALL.