About this fob thing…


By Jacob Benezra, Page 3 Columnist

First off, I want to thank the Boiling Point for offering me this opportunity to share my ideas. Now all of you are trapped hearing the crazy thoughts bouncing around in the void between my small ears. It was not long ago when I thought my Shalhevet career would consist of basketball and basketball only, yet here I am baring my soul to the world.

So about this fob thing. When the system was introduced in the beginning of the school year, it was explained to us that it was simply a more efficient procedure for tracking attendance. Assuming that this system is meeting that, the benefit is clear and the students accepted the policy even without having a Town Hall discussion. Shocking, I know.

I guess I’m just wondering, and it might only be me that’s thinking about this, what are the real upsides and downsides of this new system that’s in place? How is this a convenience or inconvenience for the students?

A clear upside is that human error is no longer an issue when it comes to monitoring attendance at school and at tefillah (prayer). Mistakes on tefillah attendance are no more, and the leaders of each respective minyan can finally breathe a sigh of relief because it means no more arguing with students about whether or not they actually were there. All of the attendance responsibility is placed on each individual student. In some ways, this is also a good preparation for the real world we’ll live in after our years at Shalhevet.

Now, I hate to be the guy that bears the bad news, but I have to talk about the inconveniences that this little fob thingamajiggy cause. First of all, it’s extremely hard for us Gen Z-ers to keep track of a tracking device. Walking past the front desk you can listen to students say things like “It was just here a second ago,” or “I swear it was in my pocket.” When I asked someone in a position to know, I was given the figure of five students per week losing a fob. If that doesn’t scream typical teenager then I don’t know what else to give you. I often find myself digging through my backpack like I’m a pirate just to get the little rascal out.

There are others who have a bigger issue. Some students think the fob protocol creates a prison-like vibe to the school. While definitely not as extreme as a fingerprint system would be, I can see how people correlate the fob policy with an intense monitoring system — like an ankle monitor that criminals wear.

Nevertheless, in true Shalhevet fashion, we must think bigger picture: the fob protocol is actually an example of replacing human effort with technology. I suspect that it is harder to trick a human teacher than it is to finesse, for lack of a better word, a technological system … or so I’ve heard.

I am not saying technology is terrible and we should never use it — baruch Hashem there are armies of lab rats at work on technological advancements to enhance our daily lives. Still, it’s important for us to be careful, because people finesse technology all the time. A system that allows a couple of people to game it — and we all know people are gaming it — tempts others around them to do the same thing. Think about it for a second: when you’re standing in line for lunch waiting for Muriel to call your name and a senior (probably me, sorry) barges in and cuts you, you feel like an idiot for not cutting the line before.

I think it’s incredibly important that Shalhevet keeps its identity as a Just Community, where students are given more freedom than at most other schools. We would hate to lose such an extraordinary culture with a system that makes students feel uncomfortable.

Technology is at the command of whoever is in control; its use can be enhanced in ways that certain parties are not fond of. I don’t think anybody’s worrying about Rabbi Stein being power-hungry, but who knows what Shalhevet’s doing or thinking. We’re weird that way — we think a lot.

All I’m saying is that we should at least continue discussing this so that Shalhevet keeps it’s community feel — one of the things that makes this school truly special.