Smartphone Policy Update 2022

Creating Our Community, Choosing Our Tools

When Ellen Geer Sangster started Buxton almost a hundred years ago, it was to provide something missing from the mainstream culture around her. Something more humane, more conducive to the growth and wellbeing of the young adults she served. At Buxton we love imagining and then creating the best possible environment we can for learning, growing, and building community. That’s why starting next school year, we will no longer allow smartphones on campus.

We didn’t come to this decision quickly or lightly, but we embrace it wholeheartedly. We are excited by it. The list of reasons is long and familiar to all of us at this point. Constant access to everyone and everything—pinged directly into our pockets, into our ears, onto our wrists—is not helping us to know and love ourselves, know and love each other. It doesn’t give anyone any space, time, or quiet—all essential aspects of the wellbeing that we are trying to cultivate here. Mental and emotional wellbeing, absolutely. But also: intellectual wellbeing, creative wellbeing, physical wellbeing, and social wellbeing. The fundamental structure of Buxton is that we are a community of fewer than a hundred people, living together face-to-face in our corner of the Berkshire mountains. Deeply, purposefully, here, now, in person. Can you imagine a technology less conducive to that project?
Of course, Buxton is not an island. It is firmly in this world, not apart from it, and should never pretend otherwise. But that doesn’t mean it should be exactly the same as what’s outside these hundred acres. Indeed, if it were exactly the same, there’d be no reason for it to exist. We have always tried to do something different here, build something different. We have tried to make a purposeful space, an intentional community, where people can truly see themselves and each other.

We’re not worried that thirty-two weeks a year without a smartphone will leave anyone less prepared for anything. Indeed, we believe the opposite is true. The best preparation for anything—any college, any career, any life—is to know yourself well, and to know how to be in community. When you know your own values, ethics, aesthetics, mind, and heart, then you are ready for any kind of world.

Consciously setting aside a technology that’s not helping us is a step forward, not a step backward. We’re not idealizing or trying to recreate the past at Buxton. We’re helping shape its future, and the futures of the communities around us. Just like we have for the last hundred years, just like we hope to for a hundred more.

Peter Beck, Head of School
Franny Shuker-Haines, Director Emeritus
The Buxton Faculty
The Buxton Board of Trustees

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