I just returned from a short vacation to Mexico and Belize. I wanted to get away from it all. No ringing cellphone. No blizzard of daily emails.
An old friend teaches economics at a university in Belize. One afternoon, I sat in on one of her lectures. I was stunned to see, sitting next to me in full view of the professor, a student engrossed in Facebook. Even near the jungle where jaguars snatch people's dogs, there was no escaping technology run amok.
Were her parents paying her tuition? If so, her college "education" was an utter waste of their money.
I noticed similarly distracted behavior when I visited Fremont High School in Oakland a few weeks back to talk to some of the students there about journalism. One boy was sitting in the back of the room with headphones on, rocking out to the beat.
How on Earth can you learn anything when you're spending all of your time in class glued to social media? Chatting with friends, checking status updates, browsing through pictures and playing games? Or fiddling with a cellphone?
More important, why do teachers tolerate such rude behavior when it's right in their faces?
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg banned cellphones from New York's public schools in 2007.
Bloomberg argued -- correctly -- that cellphones are a distraction in the classroom and that some students use them to cheat on tests. Parents and students went ballistic, but an appellate court upheld the Department of Education's right to enforce the ban.