This summer we will implement a new technology policy at Longacre Leadership. Without further ado … we proudly present, Anything Goes. Smartphones, music players, tablets, e-readers, even laptops—they’re all fair game, all the time. The era of No Devices is over.
As you pick up your jaw off the floor, we’ll take a minute to explain our logic. We’ll start with some disadvantages; then we’ll name the elephant in the room; then we’ll discuss some advantages that are impossible to ignore; and finally we’ll walk back the all-the-time statement (above), a concession we’re making to ensure the community-building process starts off on the right foot.
Before we begin, please know that this is not a decision we made lightly. For evidence, we point to the fact that it’s January, already half way through the recruiting season. We delayed this decision for months as we consulted others in the industry (and some in adjacent industries) and weighed the various arguments.
Of course, this technology conversation did not begin in 2013. We have been grappling with it to various degrees since the 1990s. The most recent iteration began right after last summer. Things had come to a head. And yes, there are disadvantages to Anything Goes. Here are the five that concern us the most:
At this point, a reasonable person might say, “Those are some pretty significant disadvantages. Why are you making this decision??”
Well, in large part because of the elephant in the room.
Truth is, parents and kids are demanding it. In 2013, asking students to go without their devices—and asking parents to be out of touch with their kids—is unrealistic.
Last summer one of our staff remarked, “These kids may never again go four weeks without a device—for the rest of their lives.” It’s a startling statement. And probably true.
That’s not to say we’re going into this kicking and screaming. Fact is, there are some real advantages to Anything Goes. The first two are pretty straightforward:
The next one is a little more nuanced:
And the biggest advantage of going no-holds-barred:
This may not be news, but Longacre is not set up to police its kids. It’s just not how we run our program—keeping things from them. We do not enflame the us-versus-them dynamic. We talk about building community, about pitching in. We don’t have a system for demerits, or privileges. We deal with stuff through coaching. Sure, we have rules, but the big ones are there for safety reasons: no sex, no drugs, no alcohol, no tobacco, etc. No Devices just isn’t on the same plane. It’s inconsistent with our philosophy.
What is consistent with our philosophy is helping teenagers find balance in their lives; teaching teenagers to live with their devices in ways that are appropriate and healthy; helping them discover that in-person connections can be more substantive and more rewarding than e-connections.
And we are fully prepared for this. We are fully committed to teaching teenagers about balance. We won’t skip a beat. Maybe, after a summer at Longacre, a student’s relationship with her device will have matured a little. Maybe, finding-balance-with-my-device will become just another skill you develop at the farm. Wouldn’t that be remarkable? Wouldn’t that be something that benefits her for years and years?
No Devices was awesome, without a doubt. It was simple. It was a clear boundary for staff and kids. And (maybe most of all) it was our tradition.
No, this was not an easy decision. This is not the route we hoped to take.
But Longacre is a place where you develop skills to apply in your real life. It was never meant to be a Neverland. Fact is, regular access to technology has become the norm. And so, in our Longacre way, we will embrace it, and we will help our teenagers find balance with their devices.
Ok, one concession: no devices in the first week. Ha. We will collect all devices—smartphones, music players, tablets, e-readers, and laptops—and hold them for one week. Then we’ll give them back.
Our rationale is, it is imperative that the community-building process start off on the right foot. The prospect of ubiquitous devices is too threatening to the bonding that happens in that first week, especially in those first 48 hours. Too much at stake.
One, we will have to add a form to the spring packet, a waiver. All students and parents will now be required to sign a waiver that says something to the effect of, “I understand that my electronic devices may be lost, stolen, damaged, etc.” This is a farm. We’re in the woods. There’s dirt. And water. It’s not an environment friendly to devices.
Two, the students will not need their devices for anything. We provide a dedicated phone line for toll-free calls; there will always be the good ol’ U.S. Postal Service; and when we’re out in public, the buddy system still applies, just like it did last year, and the year before that, and the year before that, and the year before that.
Suffice it to say that we will encourage families to go without their devices.
We are sure there will be questions, and we welcome them. You can contact us at 717-567-3349 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or you can follow the conversation on Facebook.
Thanks for reading.
-Susan, Louise and Matt