By:  Pat Austin

SHREVEPORT – I’ve written before about the negative effects of cell phones on our youth but this article in the Wall Street Journal only confirms what I already know.  Our kids are addicted to phones, so much so that it is detrimental not only to their classroom performance, their attention levels, and even their socialization.

What prompted my interest in this topic was my own experience as a high school classroom teacher and my reading of Matt Richtel’s A Deadly Wandering which tells the story of Reggie Shaw who crossed the center line one morning while texting and driving which resulted in the death of two scientists.  Interspersed with the chapters about Reggie and the aftermath of the accident, we meet the neuroscientists who work in “attention science” and the result is an engaging page turner.

Now a Wall Street Journal article examines the social habits of teenagers who are now apparently making their friends online rather than in social settings. They are using apps like Kik and Houseparty, among many others, at alarming rates:

These apps make sense now in part because more teens than ever have access to smartphones. In 2015, the Pew Research Center reported 73% of U.S. teens have access to a smartphone, and that figure is growing. Those teens are checking their phones on average more than 80 times a day, according to Deloitte .

Think about that for a moment: they’re checking their phones “on average more than 80 times a day…”.

That’s a lot.  And if you believe the science, each time they check their phone they’re chasing a dopamine hit.

With the Houseparty app, for example, you’re basically Facetiming with more than one person at a time. So rather than go to a movie, to a playground, or out in the neighborhood, kids are sitting on the couch glued to their phone screens.  Some would advocate that this is much safer than the risk of having kids abducted or hanging out in malls (do they still do that?). At least if they’re home, you know what they’re doing. On the other hand, this kind of behavior leads to sedentary, inactive kids who will likely have problems with real, in-person situations.

Not to mention the increasingly addictive factor of the device itself.   I see the detriment of this in the classroom every single day. The attention span of students has decreased significantly in my twenty years as a teacher. Teachers must find a way to be more entertaining than the phone. I find the statistics, frankly, alarming.

For American teens, making friends isn’t just confined to the school yard, playing field or neighborhood – many are making new friends online. Fully 57% of teens ages 13 to 17 have made a new friend online, with 29% of teens indicating that they have made more than five new friends in online venues. Most of these friendships stay in the digital space; only 20% of all teens have met an online friend in person.

Give the kid a library card instead of a smart phone.

Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport.

 

By:  Pat Austin

SHREVEPORT – Full disclosure: I’m writing this post pre-Grammys.

The pundits are already salivating over potential political diatribes from the podium, however. Via Page Six:

As such, Grammy Awards producer Ken Ehrlich has a message for those who will take the stage on Sunday’s ceremony: Bring it on.

Ehrlich has no reservations about political messages or anti-President Trump statements flying during CBS’ three and a half hour Grammycast. Artists expressing passionate opinions about real-life issues are the stuff of memorable moments, he said.

“One of the tenets of our show is artistic freedom, and over the years we’ve shown we do believe in it,” Ehrlich told Variety. “How many more times do we need to hear ‘I’d like to thank my publicist, my agent, my wife and kids.’ The great acceptance speeches are ones that have a point of view and are more personal.”

For some reason, celebrities seem to believe that their opinion on immigration or trade policy matters more than yours and therefore you need to hear what they have to say.  So instead of graciously accepting the award, be it the Oscar, the Grammy, the Tony, whatever, too often they launch off into a tirade against whatever hot-button issue or politician is currently at the forefront. Right now, it’s all anti-Trump.

Meryl Streep, for example, lashed out at Donald Trump at The Golden Globes earlier this month and again this weekend in accepting an award from the Human Rights Campaign.  Meryl Streep is a brilliant, stunning actress, and while it’s true that she is also a human being with opinions just like the rest of us, is the Golden Globe podium the right place for that tirade?

Should celebrities just keep their mouths shut? Should they act like one-dimensional people without opinions and just act (or sing, or dance, or write…)?

For the most part, people don’t really care what celebrities think, or at least people aren’t particularly influenced by what celebrities think. It might make us feel good, or vindicated, when our favorite entertainer hold the same opinion that we do. But the opposite also holds true that if an artist holds a different opinion than us, and is perhaps very zealous in promoting their opposing opinion, we may be turned off of their work and regard them differently. I can think of a couple of entertainers that I simply will not support any more because of their outspoken, less than gracious, opinions. Not to say that’s the right way to respond, but it is in fact my response. And that is my right just as it is their right to speak out.

In the end, we are all human, celebrities included. They have just as much right to an opinion as anyone else, but there was once a time in the golden days of Hollywood when the studios saw their actors as “property” and expected them to reflect the image of that studio. It was their job to act, not to promote their own social issues and woe to the celeb that stepped out of line. Even today there are certain professions were political silence is mandatory.  Things have changed in Hollywood and many actors own their own studios or produce their own films, so they can behave and speak however they choose. Those golden days are long gone in more ways than one.

I, for one, rather miss them.

Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport.

By: Pat Austin

SHREVEPORT – As the descendant of a Confederate soldier and as a member of the United Daughters of the Confederacy, I have what I consider a vested interest in the Confederate monuments issue that has been raging ever since Dylan Roof decided to walk into a church in South Carolina and kill people. For the most part, nobody cared one iota whether there was a Confederate battle flag in front of the courthouse or a Robert E. Lee statue in the town square – in whatever city.  There were a few exceptions, but in general, nobody cared.

I’ve written on this issue at length both on this blog and my own so I won’t reiterate all of that (there’s plenty of reading material at that link), but let’s look at the state of things at this point.

Over at Hot Air, Jazz Shaw notes the resurrection of the Confederate battle flag at the Walhalla Confederate Memorial in South Carolina. This memorial is on private property and is maintained by the Sons of Confederate Veterans. Shaw is not very confident that the fact that this is on private property will silence the critics and I’m afraid he’s probably right. We seem to have lost all sense of reason on this issue.

Meanwhile, in Charlottesville, VA, another monument controversy is ongoing.  The city council there is debating whether to remove the Robert E. Lee statue from Lee Park. I guess the next vote will be to change the name of the park?

The Robert E. Lee statue was built in 1924. Legal Analyst Scott Goodman says this might turn out to be more than just the state trying to enforce a state law.

“But also there’s going to be private lawsuits,” said Goodman. “The heirs of Mr. McIntire, who donated the land and donated the statues for a trust to be able to be kept in perpetuity. People can sue who are affected in that way, family members and so forth, to enforce the trust, to enforce the original agreement that brought the statues to that park to begin with.”

In New Orleans, activists on both sides of the issue are still awaiting the decision from the Fifth Circuit regarding the removal of four monuments in the city.

In Alabama, State Senator Gerald Allen plans to introduce the Alabama Memorial Preservation Act in hopes of preserving these endangered monuments.

In Florida, “Old Joe” has been standing on the grounds of the Alachua County Administration building in Gainesville since 1904. The statue of the Confederate soldier is now facing removal and perhaps donation to a local history museum. As one activist said, “It’s a symbol of slavery.”

Perhaps to him it is, but to others it’s a symbol of the sacrifices of ancestors who fought to defend hearth and home. The overwhelming majority of the soldiers who fought for the Confederacy did not own slaves and felt they were fighting for states’ rights. Why does one perception of a symbol get to override another? Why are we all so offended all of the time?

And in perhaps the lamest argument ever proffered against a monument, there’s this:

David Gold of Gainesville, an Army veteran who was an infantry soldier during the Vietnam War, said Confederate sympathizers should not be allowed to have a statue in downtown Gainesville.

“You Confederates lost the war, and you don’t get to have a statue in the middle of our small downtown,” Gold said.

Seriously? I just can’t even…

What is now seemingly a perpetual protest against anything related to the Confederacy seems to be having the opposite effect and unintended consequences for the protesters. Membership in heritage organizations such as the Sons of Confederate Veterans and the United Daughters of the Confederacy is rising.  These and other organizations are fighting to preserve these monuments and their heritage. As in Walhalla, many of these organizations are now placing flags and monuments on private property. In Louisiana, one chapter of the Sons of Confederate veterans has purchased a plot of land along I-49 and will soon place a large flagpole and raise a Confederate battle flag.

In Orange, Texas, near the Texas/Louisiana border, the SCV is constructing the largest Confederate memorial ever built:

 In Orange, a small east Texas city on the Louisiana border, the privately funded Confederate Memorial of the Wind is nearing completion. With 13 large Greek columns and 26–32 Confederate flags, it will be the largest Confederate monument built in a century, according to the SCV.

Where this will all end we can only surmise, but perhaps it’s time for us to all figure out a way to live together peacefully, to respect each other despite our differences, and to focus on more important things. This is a slippery slope that has no end to the iconography that can and will be removed once this debate clears the courts, should it be successful.

In the end we are all Americans. The Civil War is over.

Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport.

 

By:  Pat Austin

SHREVEPORT – Loose thoughts this week from Northwest Louisiana:

Apollo 1 Memorial: It’s been fifty years since Gus Grissom, Roger Chaffee and Ed White died in a flash fire that engulfed their capsule during a routine training mission and as she has each year, Grissom’s widow, Betty, was in Florida at the annual memorial service. This story in the New York Times records the very humble beginnings of this memorial ceremony back to when it was just two space buffs showing up at Pad 34. Now, finally, the Apollo 1 astronauts have a tribute exhibit at Kennedy Space Center and the memorial ceremony is a pretty big deal.

I found this article timely as I’ve just completed a unit on the Apollo 13 story with my sophomores.  As a baby boomer, America’s race to the moon enthralled me. I read everything I can on it and am currently re-reading The Right Stuff for probably the third time. I want to instill the history, drama, and American pride in my students when we do this unit. It’s hard in some ways for them to understand how exciting this period of our history was.

Politics: Can’t even go there right now. Let me just say this: when Obama got elected to his first term I was incensed, horrified, and rabidly vocal about the danger I believed he brought to our country and about what I perceived as his weakness and inexperience as a leader. I was chastised by liberal friends and family for not supporting the newly elected president because after all, that’s the process – the peaceful transfer of power. “He may not have been your choice but now you have a duty to support him.” Well, no, I don’t. I still blogged and railed against his policies and practices.

And now I have to listen to these petulant people whine and carry on about Trump? Why are they not supporting “our president”? Why was that duty of support assigned to only me?

The hypocrisy slays me and I can’t bear it. I’m on a politics boycott right now.

Mardi Gras: And so, on a lighter note, it’s Mardi Gras season in Louisiana and we are neck deep in king cakes, crawfish, and plastic colored beads from China.  We are lighting fire pits and charcoal grills along the bayous, drinking beer in the streets, and dancing to brass bands.  There might be a lot of problems in the country, and there are plenty in Louisiana, but for the next several weeks we are going to have a big party and pretend like they don’t exist! It’s a great time to come visit from the frozen north!

Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport.

By: Pat Austin

SHREVEPORT — As Donald Trump begins his first full weeks as President of the United States, I’m going to step back and just watch; I want to see what he does. I’m not the least bit interested in speculation or criticizing him for things he hasn’t done yet. The Women’s March that happened across the country over the weekend happened here in Shreveport, too, with hundreds of people crowded around the courthouse downtown waving Hillary signs and wearing pink caps. Okay. Whatever. I’m a woman – I don’t feel violated or threatened or victimized in any way. Perhaps I’ve missed the point of the protests, and that’s fine. I’ve been busy.

I’ve been on book deadline (which is why my weekly post didn’t appear hear last week) and other aspects of daily life have kept me occupied this week – too much so to make a poster about vaginas and go stand around at the courthouse.  I fully respect the rights of those who felt the need to do so to be able to do that; it’s just not my thing. I’ll protest other things, perhaps. I just missed the point of this one.

At any rate, one woman in the Shreveport march was quoted as saying:

“I think we’re just living in such a politically cantankerous world right now, and this isn’t a protest against one person,” participant JayaMcSharma said. “It’s just sending a clear message to the administration that just took over, this is what we’re about: equality, peace, love and defending people who are marginalized. If you agree with that, fantastic. If you don’t, we’re not going away.”

So…okay…you’re protesting about something you think might happen, but then again might not?

They marched in New Orleans, too:

The women said they were protesting against some of the comments made by Trump during his campaign, saying that wanted their voices to be heard.

That’s at least a little more clear, although I’m still not clear on which rights were lost by Trump’s election.

Another protester in NOLA said:

“We’re willing to come out and show our displeasure and to show that we’re not going to roll over and this administration is not going to be able to get away with anything they want.”

Well, that would be a different approach as the Obama administration certain seemed to be able to get away with anything it wanted.

As a woman, I’m certainly all for standing up for your rights, but I’m thinking how much more could have been done in communities had all these people not been standing in the streets dressed like vaginas and waving Hillary posters.

But, they still have the right to protest so I guess there’s that.

Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport.

By:  Pat Austin

SHREVEPORT – Louisiana’s Attorney General Jeff Landry (R) and New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu (D) are in a political tug-of-war centering on the rising crime rate in Louisiana’s most popular tourist destination.  In 2016, shootings in New Orleans increased by almost 25%, and homicides rose by 7%.  AG Landry blames Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s poor leadership for the uptick in crime while Landrieu contends Landry has no authority over him or law enforcement in New Orleans.

AG Landry has taken to Twitter in recent days with the hashtag #MakeNewOrleansSafeAgain in an effort to draw attention to his efforts to reduce crime in the city and his own violent crimes task force which operates outside of the NOLA police department. Landry points out that “Chicago has about 20 murders per 100,000 people. New Orleans is experiencing twice that many at 40 murders per 100,000 people.”

Landry insists that Landrieu is in part to blame in the increase in crime due to his agreement to enter into a five-year consent decree with Eric Holder’s Justice Department in 2012. This agreement is projected to cost NOLA over $55 million over the course of its duration.  The consent decree came about on the heels of violence in Ferguson and other cities after federal investigation of police departments reportedly engaging in civil rights violations; cities across the nation such as Albuquerque, Cleveland, and Seattle have all entered into consent decrees with varying degrees of success.

Generally, the police departments often feel hindered by the decree:

The head of the Police Association of New Orleans agrees that the consent decree is at least partly to blame for a rise in crime in a department that remains roughly 350 officers short of the state goal of 1,600.

“Because of the oversight, officers are reluctant to initiate contact,” said PANO President Michael Glasser. “…The consent decree requires a lot of oversight and redundancy, and while that probably creates a better work product, it’s labor intensive and time consuming, and we lack labor. What used to take an hour or two now takes two or three or four.”

AG Landry refers to the consent decree as the “Hug a Thug Program” and believes that officers need more help, thus his task force, and he’s probably going to push for more money from the state legislature to expand the program:

To do so he’s going to need funding, obviously, so it’s a good bet where this is going is a push at the legislature this spring to get more money for the Violent Crime Task Force to increase its presence in New Orleans and push past NOPD to make a difference.

If the legislature goes along with Landry, then John #Fail Edwards will have to sign off on it which will be particularly interesting as he is often at political odds with both Landry and Landrieu.

Some see Landry’s intervention as a power grab:

But there’s some question – at least by NOPD Chief Harrison – as to whether Landry’s office should be investigating crimes in New Orleans. Harrison sent a letter to Landry Wednesday asserting that “we are aware of no authority that permits you, your employees, or law enforcement agents under your direction to engage in active law enforcement within New Orleans or in general.”

Under the city’s Home Rule Charter, the mayor of New Orleans is the chief law enforcement authority for Orleans Parish, according to Harrison. Landry is the chief law enforcement officer for the state.

Landry insists he has no political agenda here, saying that public safety and tourism dollars are at stake:

This is not about politics; my effort is about protecting Louisiana lives and our economy tied to tourism in New Orleans. While my office works to stop crime all over Louisiana, the spike in crime within our state’s largest city is alarming. That is why I announced this initiative and why we are taking action.”

The numbers don’t lie. Crime has indeed spiked in New Orleans and the city ended 2016 with 176 murders. As 2017 opens and the Crescent City anxiously awaits the decision from the Fifth Circuit on the Confederate monuments issue, due any day now, tensions in the city are certain to rise and it’s not difficult to see why Landry’s task force might be a potential benefit to a city that clearly needs a little backup.

Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport.

By:  Pat Austin

SHREVEPORT – Consider this my New Year’s post for 2017 and this week I just have some random observations and loose thoughts to share with you.

First, I’d like to thank DaTechGuy for giving me this space each week to share news and opinion from my corner of the world with you. When he signed me up a couple of years ago, Pete told me I could write about whatever I wanted to and I’ve held him to that. I’ve written about everything from politics to animal abuse, local floods, New Orleans crime, and the threat to Confederate monuments. I don’t know how interest in some of those topics plays New Jersey or Wyoming, but at least it draws our world closer together.  I really want to thank you for commenting on those posts and for reading them. I truly appreciate the gift of being here.

As we move into 2017, I am approaching the inauguration of President Trump with caution. Oh, I voted for him – but as with many of you, I’m sure, he wasn’t my first choice. In many corners I hear great optimism, however, and so I know that a great many people have high hopes for a return to conservatism and common sense. I have always been a little suspicious of Trump’s motives and when he first entered the race I figured it was just a publicity ploy. I was wrong.

I’m not sure what can be done with Obamacare at this point but at the very least I do hope that President Trump will return power to the states. I want the federal government out of my classroom (I teach high school English) and out of our school cafeteria (my students show me their lunches – it’s ridiculous). I hope Trump reins in the EPA and pulls some of the crippling restrictions from coal country so we can return to prosperity in those areas.  I hope Trump selects a strong team of foreign advisors to guide him through the mess that is now our foreign relations.

There is much good he can do and I hope he is sincere in wanting to do so.

For 2017, I wish peace and prosperity to you all and again thank you for allowing me to share a few moments with you each week.  I am very blessed.

Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport.

By:  Pat Austin

SHREVEPORT – I have it on fairly good authority that the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals has their decision on the New Orleans Confederate monuments issue, however that decision has not yet been announced for various reasons. The Court received the case in September and some have speculated that the court is likely to affirm removal for the monuments. In mid-December, Mayor Mitch Landrieu wrote to the Court requesting 24-hours notice before announcement of the decision so the police can get proper security manpower in place as riots and protests are expected regardless of the outcome. Perhaps the holdiays have postponed or delayed announcement of the decision but we can expect it very soon, I’m told.

Meanwhile, as the year draws to a close, New Orleans is on track post astounding murder rate figures with 172 murders as of this morning. And we still have New Years Eve to deal with.

This is however not a priority for Mayor Landrieu. Certainly once the monuments come down, those awful relics of the past that do nothing but incite unrest and division by towering over the city in their granite glory, the killings will stop, right?

Equality Circle – Photo via Mayor’s Office

Once the monuments come down and we whitewash and erase our past, we can all sit in “Equity Circles” like the one at Jefferson Davis Parkway and Cleveland streets. We can sit in a friendly Kumbaya style circle and stare at the compass in the center and wonder how we lost our way. We can look at the blank space where the Jefferson Davis monument stood just a half a block away and thank our lucky stars that the killings will stop now that we are sitting in landscaped equity circles.

This is NOT from The Onion but from the New Orleans Advocate:

Called the Equity Circle, the new monument — a set of four circular benches in a landscaped setting at Jefferson Davis Parkway and Cleveland Avenue — is described as a “landscaped gathering place and conversation circle.”

It is one of eight projects being created through Welcome Table New Orleans, Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s citywide initiative focused on race, reconciliation and community building, with a mission of promoting social change.

The circle not only contributes to the revitalization of New Orleans, organizers said, but it has a much deeper goal: to help right the wrongs of the city’s past and promote healing, peace and justice, by providing a place for residents to share stories, build relationships and learn from each other.

The Press Release from Mayor Landrieu’s office:

In collaboration with the Department of Parks and Parkways, the Equity Circle is designed to bring together diverse groups of New Orleanians to share stories and experiences, build relationships and learn from each other. The Equity Circle will create a more attractive neutral ground for the community and enhance the beauty of one of the most diverse neighborhoods in the city. It will bring residents of all backgrounds and experiences together for one reason—to create a better, stronger New Orleans.

Liberal logic 101.

I suggest that once the 5th Circuit comes back with its decision, the mayor should have everyone gather in safe Equity Circles around town and then certainly there will be no more worries about protests or unrest over those nasty monuments.

If you need me, I’ll be banging my head against the wall in my safe room.

Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport.

By:  Pat Austin

SHREVEPORT – Finally, today, the Electoral College meets across the nation to name the next president. No one really expects any surprises to come of this process despite much whining and last ditch appeals from the left.

Yesterday on this blog, my colleague J. D. Rucker wrote about this process and touched on the absurd Unite for America video that began running last week in which a group of disgruntled has-been celebrities plead for the electors to “vote your conscience” and select someone other than Donald Trump for president.  The first I heard of this video was last night; I was watching something on television and the ad popped up during the commercial break. I was half listening, checking my cell phone, when the gist of the video began to seep in.  “What in the world?!….” I thought.  Incredible.

At any rate, then I came across the plaintive plea by Michael Moore on Facebook in which he, too, pleads with electors “to vote your conscience and PLEASE do not put our nation in danger by choosing Donald J. Trump.” He goes on to insist that Trump cares nothing about being president and that he’s a danger to the country:

Trump, as I’m sure deep down in your heart you know, is never going to last the four years. He doesn’t care about the law or following the rules and this will eventually trip him up. You know how dangerous it is when any politician, Democrat or Republican, who’s a super narcissist is elected to office, they start making decisions that personally benefit themselves — and before you know it, they’re being hauled off to jail. Why not vote tomorrow for someone who’s going to finish her/his term? Why risk the volatile presence of Donald Trump in the White House — and help to guarantee another generation of Dems in the Oval Office?!

Really, I’m not sure Moore is known for this ability to see into the future, but perhaps he knows something we don’t.

The electors do seem to be prepared to fulfil their obligation to vote as directed, however, and the left will have to come to grips with it, just as Republicans did eight years ago. The pendulum always swings back.

In Louisiana, as well as many other states, the process will be carried live stream.

We can expect this nonsense to continue throughout Trump’s presidency; he will be challenged at every step. Just as the right (myself included) railed against every Obama step, the left will do the same to Trump. Each side believes themselves to be justified in their indignation. It’s American politics. As citizens, we should always keep a wary eye on our political leaders; some of them are crooked and evil indeed. Some are not.

The day we let a bunch of washed up celebrities overthrow our great American political process, we are done. Their effort to stay relevant is depressing.

As Americans, the one thing we ought be able to unite behind is the sanctity of our transfer of power and the political process. There must be something that binds us.

Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport.

SHREVEPORT – As a high-school English teacher I have long struggled with the distraction of cell phones in the classroom.  I know many teachers who have struggled with this issue and have found various ways to deal with it – most often simply incorporating that technology as an instructional tool.  I’ve seen “Cell Phone Jail” jars and boxes on Pinterest and I’ve seen hanging shoe storage pockets used as charging stations, where the student can drop his phone in the pocket and leave it to charge all class period.

None of these have worked for me.  The allure of that incoming text message or SnapChat photo is too powerful to ignore and invariably the student will check the phone, thus turning his attention away from instruction.

I was commiserating with another teacher about this one day in an attempt to find out what my colleagues do about this issue when someone suggested I read A Deadly Wandering by Matt Richtel. The book came out in 2014 but is based on the author’s 2010 Pulitzer Prize winning series for the New York Times. The book tells the story of a teenager who caused an accident while texting and driving which resulted in the death of two rocket scientists.  It’s a compelling read and filled with the science to support the author’s thesis which is basically that cell phone technology has insinuated itself into our most basic instinct to pay attention in order to survive, except now we are paying attention to the incoming text message or email rather than the more important tasks at hand, like perhaps driving.

This is especially true for the younger generation – those who have grown up with this technology in their hands their entire lives.

Richtel cites science that explains how the phone works sort of like an immediate gratification system and that positive reward releases dopamine in the brain each time you use the device:

“…You hear the ping of an incoming text or call, you respond; the ping happens, you respond.  And each time you respond, you get a hit of dopamine. It’s a pleasurable feeling, a release from the reward center. Then it’s gone. There is no incoming text, no stimulation. You start to feel bored. You crave another hit.”

The result is now we have a generation of kids who find it “hard to sustain periods of attention” and who “are less tolerant of waiting for delays.”  Most telling to me, and what I see in my classroom is Richtel’s point that “Their brains are rewarded not for staying on task, but for jumping to the next thing.”

So while this book is a fascinating read and does help me understand a great deal about how the brain works and how addicted we are to our devices, it still doesn’t tell me how to manage this issue in my classroom.

I had a conversation with a student one day recently along these same lines. We had been reading Macbeth and she was amazed that an actor could memorize so many lines of Shakespearean dialogue in order to perform on stage. I pointed out that it seems that our brains have evolved over time to adapt to our changing society; once traveling scops could recite 3,000 lines of Beowulf but you might be hard pressed to do that these days. And when I explained to her how we had to do research papers without internet and without computers (remember the old Reader’s Guide?) she was astounded and shook her head in disbelief. And then her phone vibrated and her eyes dropped to the screen to see who was messaging her. End of conversation.

Since I’ve been reading Richtel’s book, I’m much more conscious of my own cell phone tendencies. I even laughed at the irony of my stopping reading long enough to message the friend who had recommended the book to me.

As I said, I still have not found a classroom management strategy that will work in my room as far as the phone issue goes, but I think I’m getting closer to it by having read this book. At least now I understand that it’s a much bigger problem than I realized.

Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport.