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December 2008

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Spider Jerusalem

Headphones and Society

As a teacher, I get frustrated having to stop kids from having their headphones and iPods on all the time. They snake the chords up through their shirts, keep their collars up, and the girls keep their hair loose. It's a ruse that is surprisingly effective.

Yet even as I confiscate players from students, and nag at them I remember myself in High School and how the simple act of being able to enjoy some music would often sooth the savage boredom of a class. When we were set exercises to work on, it was a great way to just relax (of course when I was in High School there were no mp3 players, I was using a cassette Walkman, and some friends had Discmans) and I was probably more productive. I used to resent with a firey passion the teachers that believed the use of them was somehow a cardinal sin, that by listening to some music in those excruciating moments of "complete silence" we'd be circumnavigating the natural order of the classroom and introducing anarchy to the universe.

I hate the earphones when I'm trying to teach, but when people are just working on their assignments or something? I'm okay with them. That's how the good teachers (i.e. teachers I liked) used to do it for me and my peers, and that's how I try to do it with my classes. The trouble is with mp3 players that they're easier to disguise, and so I have students trying to be duplicitous when I am already more accommodating than other teachers. It's like the potential to be sneaky is tantamount to the need to be sneaky. Damn kids.

Mp3 players are everywhere these days, and everyone has opinions on them. As a music addict, I love them - I love being able to have a soundtrack to the simple act of walking. I know people who hate that idea though - that by plugging in all the time, we are losing our sense of natural ambience, of the world around us. Should we so blissfully shut out the world with our portable music players?

The answer is difficult to work out. I know one thing though - riding on the train today, listening to some teens swear at one another, then some kid start to sing 'because I got high' with some extra special "I'm a singer, check me out" warbling, and special emphasis on the swearing, then some girl starting swearing over the phone about some guy... and the afternoon went on, weirdos on the bus, offensive people in the street (there must have been a Race Day on or something, there was a lot of classy outfits on decidedly non-classy people) - it was a damn minefield for a guy like me who is discovering his inner-old-man more and more every day. So not having my mp3 player for a great deal of it - well, I missed it a great deal. Sometimes, even as a writer who has ambitions of telling Australian stories in different contexts, all I want to do is retreat into my special little universe. If a set of headphones and tunes bounced dangerously directly upon my eardrums is all it takes for that - well, consider me a misanthrope in the making.

How about all of you? Like the mp3 player invasion? Hate it? Have a position on the place of them in schools? Have a controversial flamebaiting opinion that you want to throw at my blog whilst laughing hysterically? Go to!


Warning! Bitchy rant follows.

I love music but have mixed feelings about MP3 players, and I've so far been stubbornly resistant to the iPod invasion. I hate the people who always have a pair of headphones in their ears and can't seem to go anywhere without a soundtrack. Are we so afraid of being alone with our own thoughts that we can't even walk through the mall or the grocery store without a pair of headphones in our ears? Not only that, but people with headphones often seem completely oblivious to everything around them - including traffic, and there's a reason police warn women not to listen to music while they're running or walking alone. And there's nothing more annoying than being cut-off by some asshole with his iPod who doesn't even notice that he's gotten in your way. Also high on my bitch list are people who feel the need to share their music with you in elevators and on public transport. News flash! I don't care about your shitty fucking taste in music, so turn it the fuck down.

Annoyance aside, I can definitely appreciate the appeal of having music at hand for commutes and the like (I practically live by my discman on plane trips and long car rides), I just wish that people didn't have to use them all the damn time.

As for your question about their use in schools, I don't think they should be allowed during normal classes, but in private study time? Sure. If it actually makes them pay more attention to their work rather than talking to their friends, then even better. I think you definitely have the right idea there.
I agree with [Unknown LJ tag]'s rant only as far as people who need to inflict their music on you goes. That's more an issue with cellphones that have enough space to store more music than just a ringtone, though, so it doesn't come up so often. There's always the people who sing along out loud with their headphones on - not a problem if you walk past them in the street, but my flatmate does that. He's not a good singer.

However, I'm one of those people that's almost constantly listening to music. At home, music is on. Outside, I have my mp3 player. If I'm crossing the road, I look, since sound isn't really a good thing to rely on when crossing anyway. I don't feel the need to take off my headphones when I'm in the supermarket, because, well, why? I already had them on for the trip there. I'll take them off when I go to the checkout. I'll even turn my mp3 player down if the bus seems quiet and I think it might be loud enough for the people next to me to hear. If I'm walking, no amount of volume is going to make my tiny little earbuds annoy someone who happens to walk past.

Since I teach too, I have an opinion on them in schools - not in my classroom. I noticed just last week that I do a lot of things I always disliked in teachers; low tolerance to stupid shit, basically. Anyway, that's by the by - it's not really a problem in the classes I teach. Only a couple of them have kids old enough to have their parents think buying them an mp3 player is a sensible decision (I'm assuming that for many of these parents, "but I really waaaaant one" counts towards making it a sensible decision). I've only seen a couple of them in class, and my classes are very small (my biggest one has 18 students) so it's pretty obvious if any of them are listening to mp3 players secretly, no matter how much they try to hide it. Also, oral language classes are pretty interactive by their nature. It will be obvious very quickly if a student is listening to an mp3 player, because they are expected to talk a lot. I know at least one of my students brings one to school, but she only listens to it during the break.

Food, on the other hand, is a lot easier for them to sneak into their mouths when I turn away for a moment. I have more problems with that than with mp3 players.

In self-study classes, essay writing, stuff like that - well, I think I would have cracked down on it out of authoritarian instinct, but I think you're right. There's nothing wrong with it, and it should be permitted. It'd even stop the kids from chatting instead of writing, now that I think about it. So, if I ever have a class like that, I'll remember this post.

Maybe slightly, slightly less happy.

I sometimes have it, sometimes don't. I'm quite content with my own thoughts most of the time; if I get a song stuck in my head or I'm on a 3-hour train ride, I'll quite often pull out the MP3 Player, but I'd be just as happy a human being if they didn't exist.

Long comment ahoy!

I like my MP3 player, I like it a lot. I didn't have one until I was in my first year out of high school, so I have no unbiased "that side of the fence" opinion on their use in schools. However, I do remember liking a lot more the classes where the teacher would put on the radio for "quiet reading/working" time, so I imagine it would be much the same thing.

I am studying to be a teacher and at this point I can see myself allowing students to use their personal music devices during such times, but not while I am trying to explain something to them.

I mainly use my iPod while walking to and from the bus stops and during transit. I have a friend who hate it when people use them on the bus, but she is a crazy, extroverted drama student that revels in asking any available old lady for a story from their childhood, to pass the time. I, on the other hand, avoid talking to strangers on public transport like the plague.

I also find it weird that people are more readily open to interrupting someone who's engrossed in a book than someone who's listening to music. Then again, I get far more absorbed into books than I ever have into music.

Everyone else is doing it...haha my comment is rambly

mp3 players are okay I guess. I think I'm just annoyed because the one I have took forever to put things on and now my sister has taken the only computer with the software on it to add/remove anything. Poo. I prefer to listen to CDs still. Apparently I'm the only one. YAY!

I don't really care about people listening to mp3 players unless its when they are being served by someone at the shops/when they are in lectures/I'm trying to have a conversation with them. Okay I'm talking about in general, I think I'd hate it in other situations where its inappropriate but don't happen that often. Like funerals.

I do hate it when people bring along portable speakers on a train. Which happens a lot to me. It generally tends to be people who enjoy homie music who do this. Its even worse when its from their phone, because theres nothing better then the same 2 songs on repeat for half an hour. People need to turn down their mp3 players in general anyway. If its loud enough I can make out the song/hear a loud buzzing noise, then they are getting permanent hearing loss. Haha.

Following on from that, I hate the stupid bud style of headphones anyway. They are the worst for causing ear damage, and are the worst at actually staying in my ear. There is nothing more annoying for me then having to hold both sides into my ears so I can actually use them. I love my old style with the metal bar for over my head. I look so lame using it though.

And yes, poxy_report is correct. The only times I've been interrupted by crazies who want to talk is while I've been trying to read. Normal non-crazy people sometimes do it as well, but only if its important. Go away crazy people, annoy the homie with the loud speakers down the carriage. They look keen for your input.

Re: Everyone else is doing it...haha my comment is rambly

The same two songs? Luxury! I find that if someone is playing from their phone, it's just one really really great song that everyone around them absolutely must hear whether they want to or not, but they won't mind because it's just that great and furthermore it shows how amazingly cool the person playing the song is.

This is my theory: the greater lengths someone goes to in order to inflict a song on unsuspecting strangers, the worse the music will be. There are no exceptions, even if you find yourself doing this to your friends, but at least take comfort in the fact that people with speakers on public transport are worse.