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Texting, Tweeting, and Talking

Have our manners diminished in the classroom?

Genna Apfel

Do you remember growing up and being told to raise your hand in class and not speak while someone else was? These rules are what we grew up with and were the only thing we knew or thought was correct. While these rules are still enforced today, other ones have been added to the guidebook of do’s and don’ts list while technology remains a necessity inside the classroom and out.

Starting from middle school your teachers gave you a piece of paper at the beginning of the year, otherwise known as a syllabus. While it had a course description of what you would be learning each week and of classroom expectations, it also had a list of rules and regulations you were expected to follow. Some were no gum chewing, no food or drinks allowed, use polite words, no hats allowed, and don’t leave class without the bathroom pass.

Now, as college students, the rules may have changed. Teachers are now known as “professors” and looked up to as peers or people who you can use for networking. College students should be well aware of what is expected in class , but lately have become daringly ambitious.

Lets face it: most college students have cell phones. We’re walking to class and BBMing with our Blackberrys, checking our Twitters to see what your favorite celeb is doing today, and/or constantly updating our Facebook statuses.  And the thought of your phone in your bag and not on your desk two inches away from you can give you anxiety of missing an important phone call or text.

This all forces us to wonder: have our social lives subtracted our priorities and manners in the classroom? If you look carefully and observe, you will come to find almost every college student has his or her phone, computer, or iPad with him or her in class. Students are so focused on these pieces of technology that they forget they are paying thousands of dollars to get an enriched college education.

Professor Lichten teaches Honors Sociology and tells his students to shut their cell phones off in class and not to text. Lichten said, “When in class, students should focus on our work together. Cell phones divert the student’s attention from our difficult lectures, complex ideas, and new theoretical perspectives discussed in class. The phones limit the students’ attention to the material, limiting their potential participation in discussion.”

While some students see this as manners, due to the fact that it’s important to obey and respect those who are in a higher position than us, others see this as a rule that must be followed in order to pass the class and get a good grade. Lichten added, “In the past, I have witnessed students inappropriately chuckling while looking at their phones at the same time as I was discussing genocide, war, or racism.”

While a professor may not tell students that they are not allowed to bring their computers and cell phones to class, they are well aware of what is behind that screen. There are some students who strive their best and take notes properly, while others play around with Facebook and instant messaging. Then comes the issue of the iPads. Free iPads to freshman and transfer students and iPads that are half the price to all other students seemed like a decent bargain. Some students now view the school as responsible for causing a distraction in the classroom by supplying the iPads.

Chelsea Serra, a sophomore environmental science major, feels that the iPads are more of a distraction because the professors do not use them to teach. Serra said, “I don’t think the iPad does any good, and I don’t use it in the class. My professors don’t like it either.” Serra feels classroom manners include showing up on time, not packing up early, not texting during class, staying awake, not talking in class, and respecting your professor.

The question to consider all depends on how you see it. Is this breaking rules or is it knowing better, which ties into good manners? It’s like Douglas MacArthur said, “Rules are mostly made to be broken and are too often for the lazy to hide behind.” Believe it or not, aside from all the craziness in a dorm building or in a classroom, rules are rules. Maybe breaking rules when you know you shouldn’t is fun in life. Then again, manners will always be a part of values. Values come with rules that are made to be followed, but in this case, apparently broken.

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