Monday, October 26, 2015

Ahmed Mohamed Doesn't Live Here Any More

A good news story polarizes friends. Ahmed Mohamed and his family are moving to Qatar after his meeting the President of the United States following his arrest for bringing a clock to school. Apparently, the clock was old Radio Shack from the 70s. He took it from its housing and put it in a "pencil box" (metal art supply box). The third teacher who saw it called it a bomb and the principal called the police. It was easy for me to see Ahmed's point of view. My conservative comrades disagreed.

We did agree that no news story provided all of the same significant facts. Read Huffington Post, Breitbart, and Wikipedia to piece the story together -- and consider the sources.

Huffington Post 9/21: "The clock, which he invented, and built in 20 minutes using basic materials, led to his arrest ..."  
​Still on 10./22: "... arrested for bringing a homemade clock to school,..."​

​But putting "ahmed mohamed did not build clock" into Bing and Google returned a slew of articles from right wing sources.  Among those, though, was Mark Zuckerberg's interview in which he conceded that the kid spoke intelligently about electronics, but that he could hear Ahmed's sister in the background coaching him on the politics of the incident.
From Wikipedia:  "Some of Mohamed's teachers at Sam Houston middle school were surprised to learn that staff at the high school called police, as they have known Mohamed to bring more elaborate gizmos to their school."[7] [7]  Selk, Avi (September 26, 2015).Before Ahmed's fame: fantastic inventions and a fight with authority". The Dallas Morning News. Archived from the original on September 27, 2015. Retrieved September 27, 2015.
An "elaborate gizmo" is pretty much in the eye of the beholder. Last winter when Laurel wanted to build a security system for the house, I took out the Radio Shack project kit that she bought me one Christmas long ago. In a couple of weeks, we had integrated circuits on breadboards, and she was programming the controller.It is pretty easy to do.  But by comparison, I went to a computer security conference a couple of weeks ago, and one of the vendors had two motorized animals built from Leggos. I thought that was impressive.

Then, consider that this is about politicizing the behaviors of children. And the response of the police to an ignoramus.  The teacher who sounded the alarm teaches English.  Ahmed's technical teachers had no problem with what to them was obviously a clock.  
All of My Friends Got in Trouble in School

Texas law, it is said in an article, makes it illegal to possess a fake bomb. Well, OK, that's like robbing a bank with a fake gun, so I get that, but in order to fake a bomb (or fake a gun), it has to resemble the intended object.  In Iraq, they set off IEDs with cell phones.  So, are cell phones fake bombs?  The kid had a clock.  A clock is a clock -- unless you are an English teacher.

As for his having built a clicker to take control of the classroom projector, so what?  It's a prank for a moment.  Laurel had an uncle. When he was in high school, he brought a brown paper bag to class and told the girl next to him that it was candy for later....  knowing full well that the girl in front of him would put her hand in the bag... and find a snake. 

At our Model United Nations meeting in 1966, one of the delegations came with a "bomb" in a briefcase: a tape recorder that played tick-tock tick-tock .... and then boom!  

Of course that was before Columbine., 9/11, Homeland Security, and the militarization of the police. Those new conditions are real. For an insightful analysis of the sociology of mass violence, see "Thresholds of Violence" in a recent The New Yorker article by Malcolm Gladwell.

Also on Necessary Facts
World Peace Through Massive Retaliation: Educating the Gifted and Talented in Cleveland, Ohio
Nerd Nation
Teaching Science Through Science Fiction
The CSI Effect

1 comment:

  1. I predict Ahmed's family will return to the USA within a month.

    They'll find that Racism and Oppression in Qatar is overt and accepted.