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Thoughts from Dr. Joe: Principal’s ban on cellphones from middle school classrooms a smart move

It’s a rare day when a neighbor doesn’t ask me for the latest scoop on the La Cañada Unified School District. Apparently, they believe that since my wife Kaitzer is the president of the school board, I’d be able to dispel the myriad of rumors that float around town.

About a month ago, I was writing a chapter and sipping on an Earl Grey at Starbucks, when I was asked, “Dr. Joe, what’s the latest on the rumor of banning cellphones in 7/8?”

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I must have had my typical glazed expression, somewhere in between I have no clue and I don’t give a rat’s behind. Consequently, they made a fast getaway. I got the last word, exclaiming, “I don’t even remember where I parked my truck!”

Let me go on record. Kaitzer doesn’t tell me jack. She must think I’m a Russian spy and about to abscond to Siberia and take all the LCUSD secrets with me. I’ve told her more than once that when I was in the Corps, I had a top secret security clearance. Usually, I get a flippant response like, “When you’re in Russia, bring the girls matryoshkas.” Like I’m supposed to know what that means. “Russian nesting dolls,” she says.

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I recently read a letter signed by La Cañada High 7/8 Principal Dr. Jarrett Gold stating, “We have decided that LCHS 7/8 will no longer allow cellphones to be out during the school day.” Well, praise the Lord and pass the ammunition, Gold’s decree for our middle school is as insightful as it was prudent.

Today, it appears everything is digital. There’s nothing but files of invisible electronic data on computers and mindless zombies addicted to their cellphones. It gets harder and harder to find something real. How on earth can we build a culture when our young teens can’t even boil an egg? We inculcate in our children the sensibilities of raccoons with a fascination with shiny objects and an appetite for triviality.

Children grow on what we feed them. It has never been otherwise. The only thing that changes is the food. Nothing is real anymore. But the real tragedy is that it appears nobody cares. We’ve just learned to accept the digital age and have become its addicted slaves.

Maybe this addiction is a result of our inability to be alone. As long as you have a cellphone, you’re never alone.

The other day I reconnected with some younger acquaintances over a cup of tea. These guys were all technologically savvy, and each was political, opinionated and outspoken. Unfortunately, none had learned the art of listening. As though it were as normal as breathing, they each placed their cellphone on the table and began a macho 21st-century showdown game of bragging about who had the coolest cellphone. When I was their age, I talked about baseball.

I was glad when they left. Some of the vacuous conversations of the millennials do nothing to advance my intellect. Yet, I found that I couldn’t escape this cellphone craziness. The individual sitting at the tale behind me began to tell their caller all the gory details of a divorce. Do I need to hear this?

A smartphone is an addictive device that traps a soul into a lifeless planet. It separates us from the things we ought most to know, each other and more importantly, ourselves. Perhaps, the cellphone is the root of our incivility, which is the current malaise of our politics. If we expect better from our leaders, we have to demand better from ourselves. Maybe we should look up from our cellphones and enjoy the view.

I appreciate Gold’s being at the forefront of the problem and doing something about it.

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