Imagine that there exists a group of people so terrified of the liberating potentials of technology that they will throw money at those who choose to ignore it. They conjure up an apocalyptic vision of the world, dominated by the screen, but cushion their vision with language and incentive, to make it seem more humane. This is not satire, but reality. Diana Smith, the principal of Washington Latin Public Charter School, had offered $100 out of her pocket to any student who goes every Tuesday of the summer without using electronics – so no phone, television, computers or video games.

Jake Paquin / Photo editor

Jake Paquin / Photo editor

Now, before I go on, let me be very clear: I am not ignorant to what horrors technology can create – my blood boils just as much when I hear of the bizarre pseudo-philosophical, self aggrandizing tycoons of Silicon Valley who get glamorous profiles in this or that newspaper. Furthermore, screen usage can have side effects, like headaches from overuse or, in the most extreme cases, seizures from flashing and random lights. However, there is only one thing worse than the pretentiousness of these CEO’s, and that’s the plan of enforced ignorance by high-ranking individuals.

The real problem with this scheme is not that it won’t work; according to the Washington Post, many students took up the offer, and were paid handsomely as a result. The problem is actually best stated by the Post’s motto: “Democracy Dies in Darkness,” Technology, when used by social structures aimed at benefiting all of humanity, is nothing less than a net positive. It acts as a way for ordinary people to, at the very least, have living conditions that are not miserable and dull, and at it’s height, liberates the creative passions of the masses. The screen, in a way, is an illuminator; it gives light and meaning in the lives of many, through communication, expression or just dumb fun.

But what do these primitivists believe? Why do they go to such lengths to stop the tides of progress?

In order to understand this, let’s go back a bit. In 1934, American composer Cole Porter wrote a song called “Anything Goes” for his play of the same name. The song is, as to be expected, hilariously dated, with lyrics like “In olden days, a glimpse of stocking was look on as something shocking; but now, God knows, anything goes.” Of course, it’s not that the song is absolutely wrong, but considering that this was a time period where the Nazi Party has just climbed to the top of the German government, and that Japan was making advances on the Chinese mainland, this was the least of our concerns.

But apparently, it isn’t. Now the fear of Cole Porter’s character’s are shared with many high-ranking people. In the Washington Post article, Smith is quoted as saying that she “has become increasingly uncomfortable with the ubiquity of the phones in their lives.” Now, I would even understand where she was coming from if she was referring specifically to people not paying attention in class; that is perfectly understandable. It’s rude not to pay attention to someone when they’re talking, but this isn’t her point; cell phone use in general is bad, according to her.

This isn’t a legitimate concern about health side effects or security; this is someone being so judgemental and rude that they have to tell other people how much their lives suck, and how if they do this and that, then it will get better. This is what the anti-progress faction always has their arguments boil down to. They can’t stand the ways other people choose to spend their time, and feel as though that they must do whatever they can in order to stop it.

So, what should we do in response? After all, if this plan has worked, then this needs to be addressed.

To put it very simply, Keene State College is already doing the right thing. In most classes, unless advised, it’s considered rude to use your phone in class, especially when a teacher is talking, and students will be told to put the phone away. Outside of class, however, individuals can use their free time to do what they want; if they want to use a screen, fine; if they don’t, that’s equally fine. Keene, and many other schools like it, have much bigger concerns than cell phones and binge-watching. We don’t need to waste out-of-pocket money on telling other people how they should think and feel. The Cole Porter mentality will not benefit the students of this school, or any other.

Colin Meehan can be contacted at

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