A candidate for school board at Evanston Township High School said something which stood out quite a bit in an otherwise low-key candidate forum.
“Addiction to technology.”
When asked about the biggest challenges facing ETHS, “addiction to technogy” was Mirah Anti’s answer, an over-reliance on cell phones which Anti said is “pretty scary.”
Anti is one of five District 202 school board candidates on the April 4 ballot.
But unlike the others, Anti, an incumbent is guaranteed re-election.
That’s because Anti is the only person running for a two-year slot, to fill out the rest of a term she was appointed to fill. Running as a write-in, all Anti has to do is vote for herself, and she wins. She’s running as a “valid” write-in, and thus is the only one whose name can count.
The four other candidates, incumbents Monique Parsons and Elizabeth Rolewicz, and challengers Leah Piekarz and Kristen Scotti, are squaring off for four-year terms. The top three finishers will be elected.
While many issues besides cell phones were discussed in the recent 90-minute forum sponsored by the League of Women Voters, there was basic agreement on just about everything, from the need to close the racial achievement gap, to not having airport-style metal detectors at ETHS, to supporting the “earned honors” system that ended tracking into separate academic paths for different students.
Anti made her “addiction to technology comment” early on, and it seemed like it would not come up again.
But the last question in the debate, whether by coincidence or if playing off of Anti’s remark, was about potential dangers of social media, which includes the use of cell phones (and district-issued Chromebooks).
Scotti said the issue is not technology itself, but “how you interact with it.”
She said “we have to teach our kids how to engage with it, and can’t wait until they are adults in order to figure it out.”
She said can range from possibly incorporating cell phone usage in parts of the curriculum, to simply “locking phones at the [classroom] door.”
Rolewicz said a total cell phone ban in classrooms would not work.
“Sometimes they’re a necessity,” she argued.
But with phones often used for peer pressure, bullying, or following social media “influencers,” Rolewicz said that having a class on proper use of social media “would be awesome.”
Parsons also indicated that a total cell phone ban was not practical.
“Technology is not going anywhere, and neither is social media, ” she said.
“It’s big business.”
Figuring out how to “re-engergize our kids” after the pandemic is critical, she noted.
Piekarz agreed that technology is not going to disappear, but cell phones in the classroom can also be “really disturbing to learning.”
She said that thee should not be a ban, but a “really clear, consistent and compassionate policy on cell phones, in class” so there is both digital literacy among students, and an understanding about what is and is not allowed.
Noting that technology is part of a child’s education, Piekarz also said there needs to be a discussion on what to do with new developments such as Chat GPT, the artificial intelligence program that could write term papers.
Anti said it is possible for kids to exist without cell phones, at least for awhile.
It’s not possible to use them, she noted, while playing tennis or a musical instrument.
“I say shut it down, the phones are gone,” Anti said, regarding phones in class.
Some other highlights from the forum:
Parsons, who is running for her third term, stressed her leadership role as head of the McGaw YMCA, and said it’s vital to “see faces” of students while reviewing data.
Parsons said that ending tracking in favor of earned honors “is a committment to excellence and equity.”
“I believe in the collective power of Evanston,” she added.
Rolewicz, running for her second term, said she is running because of her “passion for ETHS and her advocacy for the students.”
She also called for “big and bold” actions by the school in climate action, such as adding solar panels.
Piekarz, a retired ETHS counselor, said she “feels forever a part of ETHS,” and her “work is not done.”
She said it’s critical to “continue chipping away at having two schools in the same school,” when it comes to the achievement gap.
Scotti’s campaign is keyed to disability rights, and said “we need disability representation on the board.” Scotti described herself as “neurodivergent,” and said her child has disabilities as well.
She said ETHS “is not safe” for students with disabilities.
Anti said when it comes to learning and opportunities, she prefers the term “justice and integration” to the standard “equity and inclusion.”
To view the entire forum, and learn more about each candidate’s background and position on the issues, go to www.lwve.org, and click the link for the District 202 forum.
My biggest concern is all the scandals at this place such as the security guard sex scandal, hr scandal, the “hacking”incident, administrators on paid leave, multiple mishandled sexual assaults, inaction from guns found in school, and etc. Everyone just turns a blind eye.
Finally someone is talking about these devices in schools.
I don’t have kids at ETHS yet, but my experience at District 65 suggests they are grooming the kids to be techno-zombies doing most of the assignments on computers.
What has happened is that the kids don’t write and they get brain dead and distracted by being on devices all day.
The techo-philes say ” we need to bridge the digital divide and make all kids ready for a tech-sector jobs.” Great, but in practice they are just turning them into distracted consumers. The only thing my kid seems to have learned is how to search Youtube. Even basic digital literacy is lacking.
There have been stories in the national media in recent years about all the tech-industry parents out in Silicon Valley who send their kids to schools where technology is absent. They work in the field an understand that the point of the industry is to engender addiction and distraction and they don’t want to subject their kids to that as their brains are developing.
Unfortunately, the public school administrators–at least at D65–have never made a case that giving 6 year olds iPads results in better learning outcomes than using pen, paper, and books.
100% agree with Estaban’s comment I will link a couple of the articles he is talking about at the bottom of this comment.
I have a first grader in D65 and two more kids not far behind her and keeping them safe from being overly exposed to technology is our central concern. But at school, she was issued an iPad at the age of 6. The device comes home in her backpack every day, and it is packed with addictive “learning apps.” She repeatedly watches YouTube videos at school about Area 51, with headphones on, alone, with no one to talk to about it. And to be clear, this is WITHIN her learning application, not outside of the prescribed curriculum. We banned the device in our house and we are actively considering private school. But they still use it for 2 hours a day at school, and encourage our kids to use it in their downtime (which is the worst use of handheld personal devices).
I don’t think people realize what an important issue this is for parents. Technology addiction and its effects are the central challenges of our age. This technology is INTENTIONALLY DESIGNED TO BE ADDICTIVE. It’s like parenting during a cocaine epidemic, and the school is sending our small kids home with…an endless supply of cocaine.
I wish someone (with more influence than me) would connect this to the article from yesterday about concerns about dropping enrollment. If D65 were to offer an optional technology-limited tract school YOUNG FAMILIES WOULD FLOCK TO EVANSTON. And I’m pretty sure this would cost less, not more, in the long run, and you would have no shortage of teachers lining up to teach in the old-school fashion.
We should get out ahead of solving this problem. These young kids are the first generation to be exposed to this tech at such an early age. We know how this story turns out!
Wouldn’t that be wonderful? We could spend time in class reading books, enjoying stories, learning to love language and learning. Students could spend time writing. By the time these students get to middle school, many of them don’t even know how to hold a pen or pencil properly and the quality of their handwriting is atrocious. How about giving time to read for pleasure? Most of the joy has been zapped out of the whole learning/teaching/school experience. All too often I hear fellow educators saying, “Come on, we’ve got to get through this…”. This is what it’s come to: teachers are so overtaxed with test prep, etc. that they feel they class just needs to get through something. We are in survival mode here, constantly on edge. That isn’t good for anyone involved. Let’s get back to basics!
Do Kindergartners and 1st graders really have access to iPads in school? I am curious to know how much screen time my kids will have once they start elementary school.
What the hell are these people talking about? So the kids won’t become digitally literate if we don’t let them play with their phones in class….? That is absolutely BS. Phones should be banned from the classroom full stop. Phones are a horrible distraction from and antithetical to building focus and study skills. There is ample amount of time outside of class to spend too much time on your phone. D65 is going to force us to put our kid in private school.
First off, I’m not a fan of social media apps or unfettered access to YouTube. There is much documented information on how it retrains our brains and algorithms in place that take one from watching innocuous cat videos to more sinister places that involve violence, hate, and sex.
That being said, the parents of school age children are already addicted to their own devices and therefore cannot control the activities of their children. Banning phones from school is already in place in District 65, getting parents to actively support this beyond lip service is another issue. It is hard work putting limits on children and pushing off the discipline and consequences of smart device usage on the schools only is not an effective strategy. Parents have to follow up at home. The best way to do this is to acknowledge their own smart phone dependence.
The worst thing we’ve done to kids is bring technology into the classroom under the guise of better education. For some kids, requiring a laptop or phone for assignments is like sending an alcoholic to class in a bar.
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