The Swiss playwright Max Frisch once wrote, "Technology [is] the knack of so arranging the world that we do not have to experience it."
In many instances, the avoidance of experience is beneficial: irrigation, antibiotics, and GPS are the knack of so arranging the world that we do not have to experience famine, infection, and disorientation. In some cases, however, the avoidance of experience through technology – especially digital technology – is detrimental.
In a recent interview, the Sewanee biologist David George Haskell offered this perspective:
"What I experience in my own life and in my work with students is that we’re often unconscious of just how vigorous the assaults on our attention have become. So, yes, we have shorter attention spans because we’re being invaded by the pathology of mind-grabbing micro-media. But we’re counter-evolving. I encounter a great hunger in my students to restore more control, more balance, so that we’re the ones choosing how our minutes, days, and lives will pass, not giving up that control to the algorithms of manipulation."
At Randolph, we are committed to creating and sustaining a strong and vibrant school community, and we believe that direct interpersonal engagement and firsthand interactions between community members are essential to the social and moral formation of the young men and women we serve.
In our present digital age, when life is so thoroughly mediated by screens that we often don’t have to experience it, Randolph is committed to "counter-evolving" and restoring control and balance.
I encounter a great hunger in my students to restore more control, more balance, so that we’re the ones choosing how our minutes, days, and lives will pass.
In keeping with these commitments, we have decided not to permit the use of cell phones in the Upper School during common free times, such as break, consultation, advisory, Community Time, and lunch, beginning this school year.
Our commitments to community and individual formation at Randolph also extend to expectations of student attire. We have revised our Upper School dress code this year to raise these expectations by giving greater responsibility to students in choosing their clothes and greater responsibility to teachers in ensuring appropriate student dress. Respect is of the essence in these changes. Upper School students must dress in a way that respects both themselves as leaders of our K-12 school community and others as members of that community; and teachers and staff must communicate expectations of appropriate dress in ways that respect the dignity of students. Non-uniform dress codes are inherently subjective.
Rather than rely principally on detailed policy prescriptions that cannot possibly anticipate the numerous varieties of student dress and changes in fashion, our Upper School dress code will rely principally on a culture of leadership, trust, and respect that distinguishes Randolph among schools in our region and that is fundamental to every other exceptional independent school.