Throughout my school day, I notice students sneaking phone calls in the stairwell, texting covertly in class and sneaking a glance at their phones for the time. The cell phone ban at Stuyvesant makes sense for practical reasons, even if it has an indiscreet effect on students. But the ban on iPods does not result in students’ practicing such clandestine tactics, and lifting the ban could, in fact, benefit the school environment.
As a sophomore, I still haven’t gotten used to Stuyvesant’s strict ban on music players. Listening to music on my iPod is second nature to me, though I must go through half of my day without it. In April 2006, the Department of Education (DOE) placed a ban on “beepers and other communication devices”—including cell phones and mp3 players—within all public school grounds. Students who enjoy their music as much as I do, however, should be allowed to use their mp3 devices in school. They are distinctly different from cell phones and should therefore be considered separately by the DOE.
The prime concern behind the DOE’s policy is that the banned technology endangers the students and is detrimental to the classroom environment. These devices have proven to encroach on other students’ privacy through the use of picture-taking and video-recording. This was exemplified by the Rutgers incident, where a closeted homosexual was exploited by his roommates through the use of such technology. Cell phone use can also be disruptive to students and teachers alike in class.
However, there is little reason to ban iPod use in school. Though the iPod Touch allows the device to connect to the Internet through WiFi, personal computers are capable of the same thing and are permissible in class. The iPod Touch makes up only a fraction of the mp3 players that students use, the rest of which don’t provide much more than a way to listen to music. This neither poses a threat to school security, nor does it distract a student, his or her classmates or the teacher, if used with discretion.
The use of iPods in the classroom is obviously inappropriate because it can cause distraction and would interfere with instruction. But iPods should be permitted in school hallways, libraries and cafeterias. Listening to music through headphones prevents any disturbance to nearby students, and students using iPods in non-classroom environments wouldn’t disrespect any teachers.
Schools across the city and nation have already embraced the opportunities that music players have to offer. The Dalton School, for example, has loosened its policy on iPods and experienced no negative effects on the academic environment. Furthermore, teachers are trying to take advantage of the devices by encouraging students to keep exercises and audio books on their mp3 players. Several teachers in Stuyvesant have also suggested that students download podcasts on subjects ranging from New York City History to Chemistry, thus welcoming iPods and taking advantage of what they can offer.
With respect to the massive population at Stuyvesant, students would appreciate the opportunity to escape into a small world of music uninhabitable by the students next to them. In addition, students may find it easier to concentrate in the currently noisy, overpopulated library.
Widespread studies on the effects of music on students’ concentration have been conducted throughout the past few decades. These, however, have ended with contradictory results, providing no academic basis for a ban on music players outside of the classroom. Students should therefore be allowed to decide on their own whether or not to use the entertainment device.
The right to listen to music outside of class, when it can benefit students, would enrich our school environment. Rather than reject new technology that is becoming continually pervasive in our lives and harder to restrict, teachers and administrators need to open their ears to the new ideas and innovative ways with which it can be used. A ban on iPods isn’t a tune we should be marching to for much longer.