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Column: Imagine Jefferson texting other Founding Fathers


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Had coffee with my old friend the other day. He is a great guy, funny and very smart. He does have a tendency to find a political slant for every little thing that happens in his life.

Some people might find it hard to take, especially his insistence that the government can solve all of our problems, but I just chalk it up to the many hours he spends on political blogs and Internet websites. He was upset when he walked in.

“Sorry I’m late. I was behind a car, one of those gigantic gas-guzzling SUVs, that was going slowly, and when I finally got around it, I could see the driver on a cellphone texting.”

“I hate when that happens,” I agreed. “That is so dangerous.”

“It’s time somebody did something,” he continued. “You know, maybe it’s time for the government to step in and regulate texting on cellphones.”

“I thought they already did,” I said. “Isn’t it illegal to drive and text?”

“Yeah, well, look around. That law is obviously not taken seriously. I’m talking about tough regulations. No-nonsense laws with some teeth.”

“You mean stronger Phone Control?”

“Yes, that is exactly what we need. If you’ve got the cash, you can walk in and, after very little time and practically no paperwork, walk out with a fully equipped texting device concealed on your person. Cellphones pose a danger to society.”

I could see he was gearing up for a rant, so I proceeded with caution. “I agree that driving while texting is very unsafe. Plenty of studies prove that. But it sounds like you want to regulate all texting.”

“I believe strong regulations would be a good thing for our country. I just finished an article in Atlantic Monthly about parents who chose texting over talking to their young children. The author, a linguist, was disturbed by the large number of parents she observed pushing strollers through a park while texting. She cited studies showing that the best language acquisition happens when adults talk not at children or to children but with children. Mere exposure to language is not good enough to develop the larger vocabularies and other linguistic skills associated with academic success.”

“So you are saying that one of the reasons kids don’t do well in school is because their parents are texting all the time instead of talking to them?”

“Exactly so.” He said settling back into his chair. “We need a well-educated population which we won’t get when parents spend their time texting rather than talking with their kids. All society benefits when parents do the right thing.”

I leaned forward. “And this is where the government gets involved?”

“What would be the problem with a, say, five-day waiting period before you can buy a cellphone? Why not develop a federal database and run background checks on potential buyers? Right now, anyone at any age can walk down the street, buy a smartphone and start texting away. Felons, people with mental problems, minors, parents without a clue — it is a clear and present danger to society.”

“But what about the Consti...?”

He anticipated my objection. “Look, the Founding Fathers never imagined instant communication. The messages they sent took weeks to get to their destination and weeks for a reply. The Constitution is not a factor in this. The Bill of Rights does not say, ‘The right to bear an iPhone shall not be infringed.’ Modern problems call for modern ways of thinking.”

“I guess so,” I said.

Just then, a tinkling musical phrase sounded signifying a call was coming in. “It’s my wife,” he said looking down into the phone his hand. “I’d better take this.”

I nodded and headed to the barista to get a refill on my coffee.

Norman Knight, a retired Clark-Pleasant Middle School teacher, writes this weekly column for the Daily Journal. Send comments to letters@dailyjournal.net.

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