New York City is apparently considering giving free cell phones to all students. And then rewarding them with free minutes for high grades/test scores/etc. The ban on cell phones in the schools would continue – these cell phones wouldn’t even work during school hours.

I have to admit, this seems like an incredibly poorly conceived plan. Maybe I haven’t heard all the details (certainly a possibility), and they actually do have everything well thought-out. But here are some of my questions:

  • Paying students (with cell phone minutes) for good grades? Really? I could go on at some length here, but I’ll leave it at that until another day.
  • Part of the reason they’re thinking about this is because parents are in an up-roar about the cell phone ban – in case of another 9/11 type emergency during school hours. How will this address that problem? The cell phones won’t even work during school hours.
  • Giving one cell phone manufacturer and one cell phone carrier access to all of the students in the NYC schools is rather like giving Coke exclusive access. It’s an amazing deal for the company in terms of life-long customer-building, but a bad habit-forming gig for the schools to be taking part of, both in terms of the school’s inflow of money and the students’ development.
  • What about the students with poor grades? Would they get any free minutes, or would they just have a useless piece of plastic to take care of?
  • Who is responsible if the cell phone is lost or broken, as I guarantee they will be? Are the students required to maintain it? Is the school going to fix and replace the phones?
  • I could go on. But I won’t.

The up-sides (and what are those again?) just don’t seem to balance out all of these issues.

But now that I’ve slammed the idea at some length, what do you think? Please be honest! I’d be interested if anyone thinks it’s a good idea, and to hear why.