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Leary’s Legacy
       In the 1960s, Timothy Leary, a professor in Harvard’s Depart of Psychology, became an advocate of the use of psychedelic drugs for therapeutic purposes. He was best known for supporting the use of lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) and for the counterculture phrase he popularized in 1966: “Turn on, tune in, drop out.”
       Leary’s phrase perhaps has an alternate application in today’s academic environment. Rather than drugs, our youths now regularly turn on and tune in to electronic media and drop out from direct interaction with the surrounding world. A 2015 CNN report noted that teens spend an average of nine hours a day on electronic media, and 46% of that time is spent on personal devices.
       Electronic time is not necessarily bad in and of itself. An article in the 2012 issue of Issues of Information Systems noted two interesting points. Their survey “displayed a positive correlation between time spent on electronic devices for school purpose and GPA.” However, the same report included the fact that there was a negative correlation between national SAT scores and the times when electronic devices were available. This implies that how the electronic time is applied and what the input is does make a difference.
       Left to themselves, most youths devote most of the time to games and social interaction. In school, when not controlled, too many students tend to focus on their personal devices, phasing out what is going on in the classroom. This, in effect, is Leary’s third point – dropping out. They are dropping out of the academic world, which often has very negative effects on their education.
       In addition, this creates a teacher-student conflict. Teachers must decide whether to fight this battle or simply allow students to drift off on their own path. It is not an easy decision. Teachers have usually selected their profession because they want to help youths, but having to tackle a multitude of issues other than education in the classroom is often counterproductive. Yet not addressing all the other issues leads to a public outcry of what should be done in school.
       Schools need to have a clear policy regarding the use of electronic devices. However, this only works if all of the faculty and administration are on board. Teachers who select to ignore the rules make those who do appear to be villains in the eyes of the students. They also made the effort more difficult for others who are trying to create a positive learning environment. If the administration does not back the faculty, it further undermines the effort, as do the voices of the parents who defend their children’s “rights.”
       If only there was a simple solution, such as having a method of making personal phones inoperative in every school building….
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