Thursday, September 17, 2015

Ahmed And His School

And plain-faced racism in Texas.

So a 14 year-old kid in Texas decided to show off his electrical engineering ability and built a digital clock. Being a computer-based clock, it contained circuits and motherboards and stuff, rather than gears. It looked like just about any other piece of uncased technology.

Naturally, school officials reacted rationally and were impressed by the kid's skill in constructing the device himself, and applauded his efforts.

Just kidding. His name is Ahmed and he's Sudanese, so he was arrested and charged with making a fake bomb.

And that's not a joke.

Ahmed had the clock confiscated by his English teacher, who reached the conclusion that is was a bomb. While his Engineering teacher told him to not show it to anyone, it began to beep in his English class. The teacher, understanding that no other piece of technology other than bombs makes any kind of electronic beep, and demonstrating the totally rational fear of a reasonable person from any potential explosive, took the clock from him and stuck it in her bomb-proof desk drawer.

Then she took it to the principal's office, and the principal studied the device carefully. The principal came to the entirely reasonable conclusion that, since real clocks have cases and this had exposed components, it must be a bomb. He then called the police. He did not evacuate the building. He did not call the bomb squad.

The police came and poked at the clock. From the advanced training of watching movies and cartoons with tense "red or blue wire" scenes, the police determined that it was a bomb. They then had Ahmed brought into the room, with the bomb and the police and the principal, and one of the police, upon seeing him, said something to the equivalent of "I knew it", reflecting the brilliant deduction that modern bomb-makers are Arab. (Or close enough, whatever)

After a totally consensual and not-at-all intimidating interrogation of Ahmed by his principal and five police officers, they were not able to obtain a confession of even joking terrorist activity from Ahmed and concluded that it was not a bomb. They concluded instead that it was a hoax bomb, containing no explosives but many components found in movie bombs, like electrical wiring, batteries, circuit boards and a digital display. They then arrested him for bringing a hoax bomb to school.


That's bullshit. What actually happened is that racist redneck assholes saw a Muslim kid with electronics and pretended they thought it was a bomb to harass him. Nobody says "Hey that's a bomb I'm gonna pick it up and play with it". Not one single person involved here acted like they thought it was actually dangerous. No one brought in a bomb squad or took even basic precautions, they just play-acted like they thought the kid named Mohammed was a terrorist.

Every adult involved here should lose their job over this. This was, at least in part, open racism.

But more than that, it's about idiot school officials who couldn't understand why a 14 year-old boy interested in science would actually build something, or why his parents would let him play with those things. Intelligence is a very frightening thing to people who have a deficit in it. What's more, Ahmed missed the lesson that learning is terribly boring and exclusively comes from books. After all, who does things things to learn anymore? The proper way is to sit still and read the dullest material possible!

Look, I know a little bit about what Ahmed is going through. While I was never arrested, and have little skill in electronics (and glow in the dark),  when I was in high school my vice-principal one day flat-out asked me if I was going to come in shooting one day. Why? Because I was eccentric and picked on, and I didn't fit any of the molds of the Stereotypical American Student. Today, the SAS mindlessly accepts whatever drivel his teachers deliver, challenges nothing, attempts nothing, and accomplishes nothing, outside of pre-authorized and well-trod paths.

Not only that, but the Zero Tolerance mindset that guides school administrators today is premised on the idea that anything that might possibly potentially appear to be a threat if looked at a certain way is to be treated the same as an actual threat. From suspending students for pop-tart and finger guns, to expelling them for drawing dinosaur hunters, everything is to be punished at the maximum level of severity. Ahmed was arrested and incarcerated for building a timepiece. The charges were dropped, but only after the message was sent.

Today, the purpose of government education is to stifle inquisitive minds and screen out independent thinkers. And then we wonder why there's an innovation gap.

The officers involved should be fired. The principal should be fired. The teachers who filed a criminal complaint should be fired. But they work for the government, so they will never suffer any consequences whatsoever.
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  1. I would like to see a picture of the clock and of the container in which the clock was contained.

  2. Unfortunately we don't have one. All we have is a picture from after the police seized and disassembled it and then arranged it to look like nothing but a mess of circuit boards and wires.

  3. So now that you've undoubtedly found out more, are you still of the same opinion as above? Just curious.

  4. Fair question. Yes, I am. The ridiculous conspiracy theories about his father and CAIR don't change the facts in-school.