No phones spell a depressing future for the Learning Commons
The recent ban on phones in the Learning Commons prohibits any kind of phone usage in the building. Every student must “park” their phone in the wooden holder when they step into the LC. No exceptions. However…
Although the name of the space suggests that it exists to serve “learning,” it is also crucial for other purposes. As 9th grader Matías Higgins summarizes, “All the ninth graders kind of have to be here because we can’t go into Rosen, or else we get bullied.” The LC serves as a place of gathering, especially for those on the bottom of the high-school social hierarchy. In past years, ninth graders filed into the building, filling every crevice. There was laughter and merriment, but phones were rampant. There were phone calls being received, and TikToks were viewed out loud.
The policy was enacted to face the supposed problem. Administrator Terry O’Hara explains: “The students' use of their cell phones has caused distraction to themselves and to others. The purpose of eliminating the use of phones in the Learning Commons is to reduce the level of noise as well as distraction.”
The policy was met with mixed reviews. According to librarian Heather Bagley-Rowe, “I have been pleasantly surprised by the students’ comments. I have even heard some students come in and say ‘Thank you for no phones because it’s quieter and I can [actually] work in here.’”
Admittedly, only students with positive responses would likely indicate their opinions to. Bagley-Rowe. This writer tested the hypothesis. At a random sample time of a school day, around 40 students were in the building, but only one phone was found in the wooden holder. Higgins explains the phenomenon, “I am actually the only one that puts the phone away. I just don’t want to deal with Mr. O’Hara. Honestly, I don’t really care about the rule because I own a Mac and Apple watch, so any notifications that I get will come to my computer or my watch. Nobody really cares about the rule… Sometimes I hide in the bathroom in order to use my phone.” Or as ninth-grader Jenna summarizes, “Just because it’s a rule doesn't mean that people are going to listen.”
In the years of the pandemic, everything has been transferred online. Every Stevenson teacher is required to post assignments on Canvas. Canvas and other sites may require two-factor authorization — which requires access to one’s phone. Many classes have shifted to digital submissions. Many students point out the frequency of online submissions as a drawback to the policy, since, as O’Hara states, “the student will unfortunately have to step out of the learning commons to accomplish that [academic uses of phones].”
Both sides of the no-phones policy provide valid explanations. Ninth grader Amaya Chadha seeks a compromise: “It’s kind of nice to have a place where you don’t have to be on your phone but… maybe have a certain place in the Learning Commons where you’re allowed to be on your phone.” Compromises built the world, which should include the Stevenson School Learning Commons.