Opinion: #IStandWithAhmed

You may see me reposting and commenting a lot about Ahmed Mohamed in the next week or two.
His story is one that very much touched my heart. If you were you research the story, and you were to poll some of my school friends, you may well form the opinion that Ahmed is me.

At 14, and throughout high school, I was tinkering with electronics and computers. I don’t recall if I built anything as advanced or cool as a clock back then, but as it happens, I’m building one at the moment. For much the same reasons as Ahmed did: to learn, to discover new things, and for good old fashioned fun of it.

I took some of my inventions to school too. That’s where two key differences between Ahmed & I become apparent:

1) My teachers supported & encouraged me. Much as the teachers at his previous school did. But his current school didn’t on this day, possibly because:

2) I’m white, and have a Western name.

It’s a sad state of affairs that a school, those charged with developing and educating the future generations, find it easier to assume that a 14 year old child is a potential terrorist than a potential inventor.

This is a new concept; if you look at any of the old school “101 things for Boys to make and do” style books, you’ll see that for the last few generations the ability to make or fix something with your own hands is something to be valued, not punished. We used to extol the behaviour Ahmed is showing.

We need to publicly support Ahmed, so that he knows his gifts and skills are something to be proud of, not hidden away or squashed down.

We need to publicly shame the school, so that the next Ahmed that comes along can feel safe when they say “Look at this really cool thing I’m doing!”, and not fear being arrested and bullied for having a worthwhile hobby.

And let’s not make any mistake: Ahmed WAS bullied by the school staff & the police. None of them had any reason to think what he’d made was a bomb; if they did think that, they would have evacuated the school. They would not have sat in the office with him and his clock, nor would the Police have put it in their car either. No one thought it was a bomb. Ahmed told them it was a clock several times, and no one had any reason to doubt him.

14 year old boys can get up to a lot of things. Some good, some bad. Think of the list of bad things a teenager can do. Go on, make a mental list right now and rank it in order. Then tell me where “Building a clock” appears on that list.

The school’s only statement is to have parents review the list of items not permitted at school. I’d really like to see this list, but I’m betting clocks don’t appear on it. Rather, I’d guess most staff and students are wearing wristwatches and carrying phones with clocks at this very moment, and despite attending and working at several schools I’ve never seen a classroom which didn’t have a wall clock too.

Why arrest & handcuff a student for carrying one? 

I do salute President Obama, NASA, and every other person and company that is standing up to what is essentially state-sanctioned bullying. Some may call it religious based, some may call it racially based, others may ascribe other motivations.

I just see a bright kid who should have a great future inventing things. That bright spark of curiosity should be encouraged, not extinguished.

Tagged with: , , , , ,