Bells and Whistles

December 07, 2006 1 min read

A Pavlovian-sounding experiment is being conducted in Massachusetts, where several high schools have done away with bells. That’s right: When a class starts or ends, there’s no more beeping, buzzing, or clanging—just a teacher, saying something like, “You guys can go.” In at least two schools, recorded music is played instead, but school officials argue that, overall, the new practice helps students better manage their time and prepare for the real (bell-less) world. Reactions among students and staff have been mixed. A janitor at Dedham High, where “silence” now reigns, says the boxing-ring-like bell used to startle him—and signal that the hall would soon be flooded with students. Even a freshman at Dedham complained, “It [was] loud for no reason.” But some of his classmates claim they’ve now become clock-watchers, focusing more on the minute hand than their lessons. Not all educators are enthused, either. Jane Lombardi, who teaches math at Dedham, says that, to avoid not releasing students on time, she leads a New Year’s Eve-style countdown at period’s end. Of the old bell routine, she says: “After 10 years, it’s so ingrained. What can I tell you? I’m programmed.”

A version of this news article first appeared in the Web Watch blog.