The Instigator
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22 Points
The Contender
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3 Points

Students should be allowed full use of their cell phones during school hours.

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 1/12/2009 Category: Education
Updated: 7 years ago Status: Voting Period
Viewed: 8,310 times Debate No: 6475
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (4)
Votes (4)




At the high school where I teach, cell phones are a constant source of frustration for students and teachers alike. Our school policy requires that students' cell phones be turned off during the school day, and many students find such a long period of disconnectedness unbearable. Teachers, meanwhile, feel overwhelmed by the administration's mandate to report or confiscate any cell phones they see, when they might see a dozen of them in the halls during class change on any given day.

Therefore the cell phone, which could be treated in a similar manner to any other non-weapon, non-chemical, non-pornographic object that a student might bring to school, has instead become an incredibly volatile object that frequently deepens or even creates the rifts that can so easily form between teachers and students. If that does not seem like a serious enough problem to you, consider the Public School Review's report that the City of New York's general ban on cell phones in public schools resulted in parents suing the city on the grounds of a student rights violation.

No one involved in the situation is content with the status quo in schools where cell phones are prohibited, where the cell phone has become a device of divisiveness among groups of people who should be trying harder to connect with each other.

If the status quo is a mess, then, how do we change it? In this debate, I will propose a nearly 180-degree turn: Students should be allowed full use of their cell phones during school hours. My value is education, which the public schools purport to be, after all, their raison d'�tre.

Here is my three-point argument, which I will rebuild as necessary in the succeeding rounds:

* * * Point 1 * * *
The cell phone is an object that is completely legal to possess, and any school policy that treats it as especial contraband is likely to interfere more rather than less with the educational process.

Yale Professor James P. Comer, M.D. summed up education most eloquently when he said, "No significant learning can occur without a significant relationship of mutual respect, teacher to student." Consider the students who struggle mightily to resist looking at their cell phones during a class period, or those who surreptitiously look at their phones under their desks or jackets—does this struggle help or hurt their relationships with the teacher, whose class is the very obstacle to their cell phone gratification? Furthermore, how much mental effort is wasted on either anxiety or trying not to get caught while secretly having the phone out?

Now, consider the alternative. Students are allowed full access to their phones. Are they going to check them and talk on them all class? Not if they have a "significant relationship" with their teacher. They will have been taught, by their teachers and principals, the guidelines of respect. Therefore, they will limit their cell phone use as much as possible. What's the difference between this and a cell phone ban? Everything! First, they are being trusted to make this choice, and second, the irresistibility that colors a thing once it is made taboo is gone.

Now, what about situations where my rosy predictions don't come true? When cell phones start causing distractions either to the entire class or to a single phone-immersed student? The truth is, even without a cell phone ban, teachers already have the authority to deal with any classroom disruptions that a cell phone might cause. The use of pencils, I hope, is allowed in every public school across America. Yet if two students engage in a pencil fight during a lecture, does the teacher have every right to discipline those students? Of course. Removing the cell phone ban could bring about a return of focusing on the reasons for classroom rules, rather than simple compliance with dogmatic rules of murky purpose.

* * * Point 2 * * *
The education that takes place in our schools must contain an element of socialization—preparing our young people to conduct themselves in a socially acceptable manner in the outside world—and barring a device that is today ubiquitous to the point of being virtually prosthetic strikes dead on arrival any possibility of teaching our students to use cell phones responsibly.

Our focus on enforcing the cell phone ban diverts our finite disciplinary energies from serious problems that, if left unexamined, jeopardize some of our students' futures. For example, taking a call on your cell phone inside a grocery store might mildly irritate the person standing behind you in line, but it's not a big deal. However, running down the aisles while screaming can get you thrown out of the store or worse. In a school with a myopic cell phone ban, the situation can become exactly the opposite: having a cell phone out is scandalous, while screaming and running down the halls barely attracts notice. This is socialization of the poorest sort.

Many teachers cannot go an entire school day without using their cell phones, whether to make after-work plans with friends and loved ones, to reschedule appointments, or even to check up on their own children who are in schools where cell phones are banned! Furthermore, most students know this, so an uncomfortable double standard is maintained while teachers are deprived of an opportunity to model for their students mature usage of a cell phone. Imagine the student's reaction in a school with no cell phone restrictions: "Wow—Teacher got a call while she was helping me but she just let it ring. That was really considerate of her! I want to be like that."

* * * Point 3 * * *
Parents use cell phones as a way to communicate with their children during the school day, and no education can take place if a student is anxious about possible changes in the family schedule or, more likely, going to the restroom during class time to text his or her parent. Furthermore, education is a much smoother endeavor if parents and teachers are working together rather than at loggerheads.

In an article in NEA Today, 21-year teaching veteran and previous National Board for Professional Teaching Standards committee member Gail Washburn responds to the argument that parents communicated just fine with their children before cell phones. She emphasizes that today we have more mothers working outside the home and more fathers commuting farther away to work, which inevitably results in more scheduling uncertainty and with it the need for flexibility—and frequent communication. None of this communication needs to disrupt the classroom setting: a student can receive a text message on vibrate and text back, all in a matter seconds.

Comer quote:

"Should Public Schools Ban Cell Phones?
Public School Review

"Debate: Should cell phones and pagers be allowed in school?"
NEA Today, Mar 2001 by Washburn, Gail and Don Mack.


With in this arguement, I want to show the negative effects of cell phones in school. First, I want to point out a fatal flaw my opponent has made. A high percentage of students may not have a "significant relationship" with their teacher. Being a student myself, I have seen that there is a high number of students that just want the school day to be over with and they do not try to create this connection. I do not see the point of this connection if you are not going to see most of your teachers next year and having to redo the creation of this so called relationship. My opponent also brought up on how students are dealt with when they are caught cheating on a test or if the cell phone becomes a disturbance. After he or she has their cell phone taken away, the student would eventually get it back and start the process again and lead to a continuous taking and giving back the cell phone. So, if the cell phone is given back, should the student have full capabilities with it? No, because what I just explained will happen and destroy the relationship that student may have with that teacher.

If school systems should have socialization between the students, why not create something like recess when they can play games, be outside, and SOCIALIZE. that is what recess and things like it were meant for. In my school, the only socialization time I have is during lunch, and that is only 30 minutes of the approximately 6 to 7 hour school day.

I also have a few points

***Point 1***
Cell phones are a source of connection to parents. The only time a student should need their cell phone for calling their parents after school or during an emergency. Unless some emergency has occured, the students cell phone should be off. As most schools do or should do is allow students access during these times. Yes students have the right to have complete contact with their parents, but not at the risk of an education needed to survive in this ever changing world.

***Point 2***
Students have the capability of cheating on a test. Not only do they have this capability, but they abuse it even with the rule that prohibits all cell phone use at any time during the shool day. Not only do they have the capability to cheat, but challenge a person to fight or make a drug deal, which is against the law. Allowing this could create a state of chaos within the school system and social hiearchy of the students. This can be considered a form of SOCIALIZATION to a student leading to many other problematic conclusions that I would not prefer to state in this arguement.

***Point 3***
Students should be allowed some access to their cell phones, but not complete access to them. Yes, a cell phone is used or many things, but with these things comes the need for rules and regulations set specifically to the use of cell phones. With every good, comes a bad, and with responsibilities, comes consequences. Students should have access to their cell pones, but under certain guidelines set by not only the shool system, but with help from the students as well.

I hope that someone in the school system sees the logic my opponent and I are setting for fellow debaters and make the changes necessary to create a stable place of learning for their students. I wish my opponent the best of luck and hope he understands that I think students should be allowed limited use, instead of unlimited use.

"cell phone's and devices in school." National Issues Forums Online Discussions. 12/28/08. National Issues Forums. 13 Jan 2009 <;

"Fair Cell Phone Use in Schools." Suite 101. 3/11/07. 13 Jan 2009
Debate Round No. 1


KyleLumsden forfeited this round.


shades007 forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 2


First, I wish to thank my opponent for his tolerance of my protracted absence from this debate. I would also like to apologize to anyone who was watching this debate, only to see it fizzle out due to my inaction. In the future, I will make a special effort to be on time with my arguments.

Since it's been so long, I'll start by briefly reviewing my three points from Round 1:

Point 1. A cell phone is just another item, and making it special contraband makes it just that much more irresistible for students to use.

Point 2. Cell phones offer an opportunity to socialize our students regarding their proper use—banning them makes demonstration of responsible use impossible.

Point 3. Parents want their children to be able to use cell phones, and the educational process runs more smoothly when parents are happy.

In his First Round argument, my opponent offers several objections to my points—and each and every one of his objections is either irrelevant, based on fuzzy logic, or a deliberate misinterpretation of my words. I'll now respond to his objections.

1. He claims that most students do not have a significant relationship with their teachers, and he's probably right. This concession does not weaken my argument: I was only saying that the iron-fisted cell phone ban is just one more obstacle toward building these relationships, which can increase student achievement where they do exist. If few students have significant relationships with their teachers, and such relationships are an invaluable aid in learning, shouldn't we seize an opportunity to make them more likely to develop? He later says that taking the phone will destroy the relationship, but this same situation occurs under the status quo, with one significant difference: Under the status quo, teachers are taking cell phones for no reason other than "that's the rule"; If cell phones were not banned, a teacher would only take a cell phone for a clear reason. Students still wouldn't be happy, but at least more of them would think this is fair.

2. He says that I acknowledged that students use phones to cheat on tests. I said nothing about cheating, but I'll respond to this anyway, and also to his Point 2, which was that cell phones let students cheat on tests and break the law by dealing drugs and challenging other students to fights. My response is simple: students did all of these things before cell phones existed. A teacher can easily forbid cell phones during testing, the same way that a teacher tells students to clear their desks of extraneous papers before testing. And come on: Is a drug dealing student likely to pay attention to a cell phone ban? He might not use the phone inside the classroom, but he's going to find a way. My opponent concedes as much when he says that students "abuse [being able to use a cell phone to cheat on a test] even with the rule that prohibits all cell phone use at any time during the school day." So what's the point of the rule? In my opinion, having a rule that doesn't work is far more damaging than having no rule at all.

3. My opponent claims that a disturbance would result in class from a continuous give and take of the phone, but there is no reason a phone couldn't be confiscated long term like any other item.

4. My opponent confuses *socialization*, which I clearly defined as "preparing our young people to conduct themselves in a socially acceptable manner in the outside world", with *socializing*. I never said that students needed cell phones to socialize. I said that removing the ban gives teachers an opportunity *to socialize them* by teaching them about respectful cell phone use in the outside world.

In sum, my opponent offered many objections, but none of them hurt my argument and some may have even strengthened it.

Now, I will attempt to offer clear objections to my opponent's argument that cell phone use should be banned—or, as he concedes to the middle ground, at least severely limited.

Point 1. My opponent admits that students need cell phones to connect to their parents, but also says, "Unless some emergency has occurred, the student's cell phone should be off." This assertion assumes that all emergencies happen inside the school—otherwise it is ridiculous. What if the emergency happens at home, or at the parent's work? How is the student supposed to know to turn on his or her cell phone to receive the call about this emergency? Far more logical is for individual teachers to set the policy that all cell phones be set to vibrate during class time. Simple conversations with parents can be conducted via text messaging. If a student has an emergency, he or she can step out of the classroom to conduct that conversation. If the student starts having "emergencies" on a regular basis, of course the teacher will intervene.

Point 2. I have already responded to my opponent's concerns about cell phones allowing cheating and illegal activities. Again—all of these things happened before cell phones existed.

Point 3. His third point is that students should not be allowed full use of their cell phones because cell phones require their own rules and regulations. This is not a point, but rather an opinion and a conclusion. No new reasoning is presented with this "point".

My opponent concedes that students need cell phones to be in contact with their parents. He admits that students use cell phones to cheat even when cell phones are banned. In his conclusion, he argues for a limited ban on cell phones, essentially the status quo at my school. Students can turn their cell phones on after school, and that's that.

But that's not enough, because a ban always invites the question of *why?*. The substance of my opponent's argument is that cell phones allow students to do bad things and disrupt the learning environment. Well, we've already seen that students will do bad things with or without the latest technology. So, cell phones are a disruption. They certainly *can* be a disruption, but if expectations for their respectful use are made clear by individual teachers then they will not be a disruption.

Far more disruptive, I argue, is a ban—even a limited ban, like my opponent proposes. The constant "no questions asked" confiscation of cell phones disrupts tenuous teacher-student relationships. Forcing students to turn off their phones during the school day disrupts the line of communication between parents and their children. Banning cell phones and then having students see teachers make calls on a cell phone disrupts the ability of a teacher to model proper behavior for students. Not teaching and trusting students to make responsible, respectful choices with their cell phones disrupts the delicate process of their socialization.

Disrupt the status quo: Vote pro!


My opponent continues to talk about a ban of cell phones. A ban is a legal or formal prohibition. Beer was banned once, and it could not even be seen unless for certain uses.. However, unlike like this ban on alcohal, cell phones are allowed to be in the student's back pack or pocket, when alcohal was not. This means that there is no cell phone band, but a restriction of use on cell phones.
He also said that cheating has occured before the cell phone. Yes, this is true, but cell phones are not as easy to catch compared to people passing notes. Students today have found ways to hide cell phones and when they need knew ones, they will create them.
My opponent said that a longer period for the phone to be away from its owner should counter my countinuous flow of rule breaking and punishment. It can only holt the process until the student gets the phone back, which would still be a continuous flow that can only end at permanant loss of the phone.
My opponent brought the point of an emergency occuring outside of the school. He is saying that students should have their cell phones on in case of a random emergency that may have a low risk percentage of occuring. Unless this emergency is already known by the student, then he or she should not have their cell phone on.
During school hours, students could use their cell phones to send a threatening text message to someone. This could be endangerment of a life, punishable by law. Making a great chance that the school could be seen negatively for not preventing these things does do harm to the government because the school system, or education, is usually looked upon to be the best .

"ban." Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary. 2009.
Merriam-Webster Online. 22 January 2009

"Cell Phone and Pager Issues." National School Safety and Security Services . 2008. National School Safety and Security Services . 22 Jan 2009 <;
Debate Round No. 3
4 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 4 records.
Posted by s0m31john 7 years ago
Agreed. I paid $300 for my iPod Touch and the only way someone is going to steal it from me is physically. If mommy and daddy bought it for you and you let someone swipe it out from under your nose due to carelessness I have little sympathy.
Posted by SouthernDeadhead 7 years ago
I believe the reason for stealing such a valuable item is the environment that the owner is in. If the owner is in class with a group that lives in poor housing conditions and can't afford much, there is more of a isk for getting an expensive item stolen while if the owner was in class with a group of upper-class or even middle class students in which every one has that item, there is less of a chance of getting that item stolen (or even if there is, it is stolen as a prank).
The owner should have the discretion to keep her valuables hidden if there is a risk to get it stolen just as you wouldn't drive your Ferrari through a bad neighborhood.
Posted by KyleLumsden 7 years ago
Contrast zero tolerance in the schools with Duke University buying an iPod for each incoming Freshman! (I know they did something like this a few years back, at least.)

My only concern is theft. I read a post on a message board back when iPhones were $399 in which a girl told the sad story of an unknown classmate filching her iPhone during class one day, and I wondered why I had never been approached about a similar situation in my classes. I asked myself how I would handle such a situation, and I'm sorry to say that I didn't have a good answer. Fancy phones and portable music players fit a lot of price into a small, easily stolen package. I'd welcome some alleviation of my worry about the subject.
Posted by s0m31john 7 years ago
It's not just cellphones, it seems high school have a vendetta against all things electronic. For example, I have an iPod touch, why shouldn't I be allowed to listen to it before school on campus, during lunch, and in between classes? For starters me doing so harms no one but maybe myself. Secondly it is a great educational tool.

I listen to half a dozen podcasts that could be categorized as educational. Podcasts ranging from The Cato Institute Daily Podcast (a Libertarian think tank) to TWit (This Week in Tech) and each have their own entertainment and educational value. iTunes even has a special category called iTunes U where you can download real university level lectures!

I also have an app called iFlipr, a flash card application. It has saved me numerous times when cramming the night before a test.

Yet there is a zero tolerance policy for having an mp3 player in school, and all the potential good they could do is lost.
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