Opinion: WHS Administrative Restrictions Are Limiting Students’ Learning

Tommy McGinn '23, Co Executive Producer

I consider myself, like many others, a young adult who wants rising opportunities to be available for all people. Just like many other students at WHS, I want to be as successful as possible. I would first like to say I am extremely grateful for the education I am receiving at WHS. However, I feel like it would be an injustice to not voice my opinion on something that could potentially help other students and I become more successful in high school. 

I have been a part of the Westborough Public Schools system all my life. As I have grown older and taken more classes, I’ve found what helps me to be a more successful student. Starting in freshman year at WHS, I really struggled in a completely different academic environment. Then after the pandemic, I completed my sophomore year in hybrid. And then finally, during my junior year, I really did well in school. 

This is partially due to a change in habits with studying and homework. I found it so much easier to do math problems, for example, while listening to music than without it. This is true for some of my other classes as well, yet for some classes that involve reading, like AP Psychology, I find it more distracting. So while this tool of technology can be a negative component to some classesfor certain studentsit can be a huge help to students in other classes (especially with students with attention deficits).

The foundation of the WHS administration’s argument against phones is that teenagers are addicted to their phones. And most concerning of all, that electronic devices are a complete distraction. 

A letter from Mr. Callaghan on September 5 stated the rules: “phones must be put away and should not be used in the classroom at all; phone use in hallways is permitted, except it shall not cause a disruption or other issue; earbuds/airpods/headphones should not be used in the classroom even when working independently on a project or activity; headphones/etc. can be used for watching/listening to a teacher-assigned video or audio file”. 

To quote, “phones must be put away and should not be used in the classroom at all”, I find this very uncharacteristic of what I know my school to be. Westborough is centered around academic success and opportunity. Yet, I find this rule to be discouraging for students as the administration deems something that can be an asset and a tool for some.

Another issue I have with this rule is that it is too subjective. This is where controversy and problems arise. When Admin stated, “except it shall not cause a disruption or other issue” in terms of usage in the hallways, there is no baseline. It seems anything at all could be subject to distraction if they choose, and it comes off more as a warning not to do so. I personally would listen to motivational music in the halls before a test, heading to that classroom, or looking over one last note, or text a family member. 

I found every time that a history or English teacher gave me an opportunity to write an essay in class, they would give us the choice to quietly listen to music while we worked. Some students would choose not to listen, while many others would. It was not distracting as we would just listen to music and get our work done arguably faster. How is listening to music while working on something independently distracting? If you have headphones in, then no one can hear your music. If you choose to listen to music, you do so because it is a tool that helps you focus more, and makes the work less boring in some cases. I don’t like being told what is helpful for me and what is not. Many high schoolers, especially upperclassmen, are old enough to determine what is good for them and what is not.  

I do agree with the administration’s policy on phones in class–in situations like texting your friends instead of listening to the teacher as an example. I can understand how this type of situation is disrespectful and hurts the overall class environment. But, it seems the administration is focusing more on that teens can be addicted to our phones. 

So I’ll close my argument with one last thought. Different generations have varying opinions on technology, but if we can come together and realize that technology can be a huge asset to learning for manynot allthan a perceived distraction, we can flourish as an educational world. As we grow older and gain more responsibility, especially in high school, we need to start to find ways and say for ourselves what is in our best interests to set ourselves up for success, rather than constantly being told what is in our best interest from an outside source.