It seems that the experiment at Columbia University for its students, currently preoccupied by their personal communication devices, may restore some sense of personal contact on campus. Maybe we should consider something similar?
On a related note, just the other day one of my own children lamented that he was not allowed to bring his electronic game on the bus as they embark on a school trip. "What are you going to do?" offered his brother. "Play cards, I guess," he returned. Play cards. Presumably with another student. A novel idea?
I think this is the motivation behind Columbia's trial. The purpose of a university, a college, even a University School, is to shape an environment conducive for student learning, at a high level of expectation. The students are supposed to mature, to learn how to collaborate, to graduate, and then go out and make the world a better place. These are broad statements, but think about it. The deliberate environment frames a series of small communities (classes, sections, lunch mates) within a larger community in a particular place. For any of it to function, people must talk with one another, get out of their own heads, and spill over into each other's lives. It requires risk, impromptu sorties into the unknowns of fleshly conversation. While the ability to communicate with others exists on Columbia's campus, for example, through the personal electronic devices, the tools create barriers of distractions among students who dwell together in the same space. While there may be active communication going on, the sense of place, of "being together," is somehow violated as immediate, corporeal communication and relationship gets snubbed.
The reason we don't allow cellphones during the class hours (or don't allow student-parent email during school hours) is so we can build our community here in this place. The boys need it, whether they know it or not, whether they desire it or not. They must experience spilling over into each other's lives, here, away from whoever is on the other side of the cellphone. Parents, girlfriends, bookies... whomever, are not welcome to invade this set-apart space when the boys' priority for communication and community rests here. The boys need to learn how to interact with each other now or they will become worse for the wear as the consequences for selfishly and independently maintaining comfortable outside connections during the day arrest the purpose of the precious little time we have in here with each other.
We could do MUS online. That way, the boys could stay in their jammies and work from their own place. One day, who knows? Maybe we will, say, if the nuclear option gets exercised or the Resident Evil T-virus hits River City. Until then, we come here to be here, among and with one another, for each other. Cell phones can ring at 3:16 p.m., and administration can get messages to students immediately by either land-line or email, contact numbers/info posted at top left.