School Wide Earbud Policy

Opinion of the Whirlwind Editorial Board on the new earbud policy


    During the first week of school, students of each class poured into the cafeteria for class meetings. Although many usually leave class meetings pretty complacent, students were quite upset about the announcement of a new rule. The WAHS administration implemented a new school-wide rule effective as of the start of this school year, the rule being earbuds are not permitted in the school under any circumstances. This rule, not evident in the school’s handbook that obviously hasn’t been updated in ages considering it still states class elections “will be held on October 3, 2014,” was expressed to students during class meetings during the first week of school, and has since been reiterated in announcements and in class by teachers–not to mention how many times, “No headphones!” has been screamed down the halls. Nevertheless, it is the position of The Whirlwind that there is a place for students’ earbuds in school under some circumstances.

    Many students in art classes use music as inspiration for their art, and not being able to listen to music without hassle on their earbuds is quite the annoyance. For many, listening to music while working on a paper in English is very helpful. In the classroom, with the permission of the teacher, earbuds should be permitted. Because administration is worried about the safety of students, strict rules as to where earbuds are allowed could be put into place. Perhaps earbuds could be banned in hallways and always put away unless given explicit permission by the teacher to use them.

    While administration and teachers like to say listening to music in class does not help you learn, evidence contradicts this claim.

    Dr. Masha Godkin, a professor at Northcentral University in the department of Family Sciences, says, “Music has the potential to take a person from the Beta brainwave state to deeper Alpha, and then Theta brainwave states.” Theta brainwaves reduce stress and anxiety, causing the body to relax. Because anxiety and stress prevent the brain from focusing and can make learning very difficult, but listening to music reduces stress, and in turn, helps one learn better.

    Nancy Barile, an award winning teacher of 22 years, says in an article titled, “Should You Let Students Listen to Music in the Classroom?”, “When [my students] listen to music when writing essays, [they] usually begin working immediately and almost always hand in a product.” If teachers let students choose whether or not to listen to music during work time in class, students might learn better and scores may go up, but just banning earbuds is closed-minded and prevents students from finding a way to possibly work better.

    Taking this course of action against students using headphones is a prime example of the ways staff and administration “baby” students.

    If anything, the new earbuds policy hinders students’ abilities to make their own choices. If a student uses their headphones to listen to music while working in class and they end up not doing very well on that assignment, at least they have learned that studying technique does not work for them. Not to mention that if a class activity involves headphones, some teachers are saying students can only use the school headphones, and for those who are germaphobes or have severe anxiety, sharing headphones with the rest of the school is disgusting and worrisome.

    A main reason given for why the administration decided on this new rule was because of a particular scenario that happened at South Albany where a student could not hear a safety alarm because their headphones were in. Of course, this is an issue, but it is important to remember not every single thing that happens when headphones or earbuds are involved is applicable to other scenarios. There could have been confounding variables as to why that student did not hear the fire alarm and let’s be real, it would be extremely hard not to hear our school’s fire alarms; they’re loud enough to wake the dead. Realistically, if headphones were the only cause for that student’s inability to hear the fire alarm, then how would it be possible for a deaf student to be aware of a fire alarm? One would have to be completely not paying attention to not see the bright, flashing lights that go along with our fire alarms.

    Moreover, if not hearing the fire alarms, and therefore not leaving class, is an extreme concern, a possible solution to this is to have the library be an earbud-safe place. This way, if students want to do homework with their headphones in or study while listening to music, they would be able to. This would work because there are always faculty in the library and they are often paying attention to what students are doing because the library is a place for many to quietly get work done. If all headphone use was contained to the library, hearing a fire alarm would not be a problem because the library staff could ensure all students get out and are aware of what is going on.

    All in all, the new headphone policy is frustrating and prevents students from exploring new studying techniques. Times are changing, technology is improving, and preventing students from using modern technology to help them study is behind the times. It makes no sense that students can use laptops in class to take notes or use chromebooks for learning purposes, but headphones cannot be used for educational purposes. It’s time the administration gets with the times and stops baby-ing the students of West Albany.