The new school year began this week here in Barrow County and while it has been more than 20 years since I walked through the halls as a student at my alma mater, I still can remember those first days back.
Like most things in life, so much has changed in the past two decades plus. While students today can keep track of one another with cell phones (it seems everyone on the planet has one now), text messages and e-mails, back in my day, none of these were an option.
No one that I knew when I was in high school had a phone they carried around with them. Certainly no one sent e-mails and no one had the first clue about texting or instant messaging on Facebook. How times have changed.
Even I have been brought (somewhat kicking and screaming mind you) into current times. I finally got the hang of sending text messages. I have a feeling this form of communication will be similar to when I finally got on board the e-mail train a few years ago. I’ll wonder how I ever got by not knowing how to do it.
However, to me there are also drawbacks to this form of communication. I fear young people today don’t really talk much any more. Or if they do, it’s because they must. Cell phones are used as much, if not more, for sending texts, browsing the Internet and sending messages via Facebook than they are for actually making a call.
High school students would fall over in laughter at this, but back when I was in high school I can still remember writing letters to some of my friends. Yes, writing a letter. Taking a piece of paper, a pen and writing something on it. Then addressing an envelope, putting a stamp on it and mailing it. A few days later (if you were lucky) you’d get a response. The world might end if a high school student today had to communicate this way.
Back in my time, however, it was necessary. The school I attended drew students from several counties and the large area of toll free dialing zones did not exist then. It was actually a long distance phone call to reach someone who lived as close as 16 miles away. With no calling plans (if you made a long distance call back then, you paid for it) and unless you were old enough to have your driver’s license, the means of communication were limited.
Technology is a good thing but I still have to wonder how well young people today are learning to communicate when most forms of it are done without actually talking to one another. Is this really preparing them for the future?
Of course, who knows what things will be like in the next 20 years. We’ve advanced so much since my school days that I can only imagine what the future holds. Maybe a cell phone won’t even be needed. Maybe scientists will create a way to communicate telepathically.
On a related note, the school year begins way too early now. Locally, the students were barely out two months. If you are going to go to year around school then do it. However, this constant chopping away at the summer breaks needs to end. School officials talk about having to save every penny during these economic times, but the amount of money in energy costs for starting school at the beginning of August will be out the roof.
The solution is simple: do away with these extra week-long breaks that have been worked into the school year (they aren’t needed) and go back to a regular summer vacation schedule. Start school after Labor Day and allow students a real break. They are still young people and a lengthy break is necessary. I suppose, however, this early start to the school year looked good on paper to someone. However, things that look good on paper often don’t equal the best thing, especially when it comes to our students.
And I’ll text — or write in longhand — that to anyone who cares to listen.
Chris Bridges is editor of the Barrow Journal. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.