freeSpeech

freeSpeech: Joanne Lessner
CBS
There is no way I'm sending my 10-year-old son off to middle school without a phone. 9/11 happened on his second day of kindergarten. So for everyone who says, "kids have been going to school for centuries without cell phones," I would answer, "yes, but they didn't live in a world where they were terrorist targets." The world has changed, and like mothers all over the country, I believe it is imperative that parents and children be able reach each other.

Here in New York, the mayor and the schools chancellor have categorically banned cell phones in schools because they say students use them to cheat on exams, sell drugs, and organize fights. Now I understand the Board of Ed's issue with cell phones, but what they're missing is that the basic function of a telephone is not what's causing problems in the schools - it's all the bells and whistles: text-messaging, video, photos, and fancy ringtones. And that gave me an idea.

The city should partner with a cell phone manufacturer and design a "city-approved" phone. Its only function would be to make and receive calls. Period. Those phones would be the only ones allowed in the schools. And one other advantage: Cities across the country could make money by selling these phones to students and pour the money back into the schools, which are dying for it.

Until there are working pay phones on every corner and in every school, my son will have a cell phone in his pocket when he goes to school - ban or no ban.

Joanne Lessner is a writer and singer who lives in New York with her husband and two children. She contributed the book and lyrics to the cult hit musical "Fermat's Last Tango," which played Off Broadway in 2000 at the York Theater Company, and the musical "Einstein's Dreams," based on the novel by Alan Lightman. Both shows received productions at the Teatro da Trindade, in Lisbon, Portugal, and feature music by her husband, Josh Rosenblum, creator of the popular Off Broadway revue "Bush is Bad."

Joanne is one of the principal sopranos with New York City's acclaimed Blue Hill Troupe, Ltd, now entering its 83rd season. She is also a regular contributor to Opera News magazine.