Dan Gilmore / Sep. 17, 2015

Broken Educational System Punishes Kid for Clock

In the past, children tinkered with computers. Today, those kids are tech leaders.

The first problem with the story about Ahmed Mohamed is the hypersensitivity in the educational system when it comes to weapons. As National Review’s Ian Tuttle notes, students have been suspended for less, such as the youngster that bit a pop tart into the shape of a gun only to be suspended for violating the “zero tolerance” policy. Ahmed, though, was doing more than simply goofing around with friends. On Monday, the 14-year-old brought a homemade clock to his high school in Irving, Texas, to show his engineering teacher. The clock, which Ahmed put together in about 20 minutes, was housed in a toy briefcase, and when the clock started beeping in his English class, the police were called in. Despite Ahmed’s insistence that the device was a clock and clock only, the police decided Ahmed’s intent was to make a phony bomb and led him away in handcuffs. The outcry was huge. Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook founder, said he wanted to meet Ahmed. Barack Obama tweeted an invitation to the young tinkerer to visit the White House. “Cool clock, Ahmed,” Obama wrote. “Want to bring it to the White House? We should inspire more kids like you to like science. It’s what makes America great.” Would Obama have extended the invitation if the kid’s name was “Billy”? The whole incident showed a school system unfamiliar with how to use technology. In the ‘70s, '80s and '90s, children tinkered with computers; they taught themselves code. Today, those kids are tech leaders. And in the age where anyone and their cat can press a start button and get the next iDevice up and whizzing, it’s rare for someone to go back to tinker to understand how tech works. That knee-jerk response here is antithetical to a useful education, and it displays the foolishness of modern discipline.

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