By now you’ve probably heard of Ahmed Mohamed, a 14-year-old who built a clock and took it to show to his engineering teacher at his new high school in Irving, Texas.
Now, being married to a nerd, we have a lot of motherboards and various other parts kicking around here. Lots. He’s actually got my yarn stash beat. (Note which one of us is writing this.)
The Heathkit company of our youth quit making electronics kits ages ago. Even I built some of their kits–it was a requirement in a college electricity course. My clock finally died after 35 years but the alarm in case the standing freezer gets too warm is still at work in the garage.
So into that vacuum stepped the folks who started Raspberry Pi after looking at how expensive gadgets had gotten; few parents would want to let their kid take, say, an iPad apart and explore its innards, and they decided budding nerds needed to have access to electronic parts to tinker with and to be able to make things at a reasonable price–and I mean exceedingly reasonable.
And thus we have, for instance, the controller that turns the Christmas lights on my mango tree on and off depending on the temperature range I set for it. Had we bought such a gadget prefab it would have been prettier but also more expensive and this way my sweetie has made himself a part of that tree’s success. He built that.
This is the hubby who decided one Christmas years ago when the kids were little that the usual setup of chairs across the hallway with blankets draped over it to block their view of the goodies ahead wasn’t enough. The rule was that you wait for Mommy and Daddy and Mommy and Daddy are allowed to sleep till a semi-reasonable hour after trying to assemble that #*% rocking horse till 2 am (second page of instructions, line 17 halfway down: “Before you start, make sure you…” And so forever after it had a screw missing because there just was no way.)
A motion sensor, a tape recorder, and the very unexpected sound of Daddy’s voice: “Go. back. to. BED, Richard!”
And so it was with some amazement that I listened to my ever calm peacemaker of a husband take off on that principal and those cops. “They should be in JAIL!” He was just outraged. In his own youth, he told me, he had gotten permission from the school, made fireworks (me: You *made* fireworks? him: Yes, I made fireworks!) and had brought them in.
They called Ahmed’s clock a bomb and when he confirmed his last name and refused to say that it was a bomb, after having illegally questioned him without allowing him to notify his parents much less in their presence, they marched him across the school in handcuffs, hauled him to police headquarters and arrested him.
Let’s see: false imprisonment, false police report, false charges, under color of authority, lack of parental notification, libel, and even after they found out that it really was just a clock the school still said he was suspended for three days as if he were somehow guilty for embarrassing them–and then they sent home a letter to the other kids’ parents about how their children were being kept safe (from, basically, terrorists by the sound of it) and that there had been an incident but everything was fine now.
Now, if they’d thought it was really a bomb, would they have left it sitting in the school as they blasted this child? But they did.
Would they have evacuated the school? But they did not.
It all comes across as the English teacher and the principal with the cops piling on trying to show that smart brown kid with the Muslim name just exactly who had the power around here.
But then, thank heavens, the aftermath began. President Obama on Twitter: “Cool clock, Ahmed. Want to bring it to the White House? We should inspire more kids like you to like science. It’s what makes America great.”
Mark Zuckerberg, NASA (he was wearing their t-shirt when it happened) and a growing number of places: You want to come tour our headquarters/lab/etc? We want smart people like you and we would love to show you around here.
Mohamed’s father, an immigrant from Somalia, thanked all those who stood up for his son: I love America. When we see something wrong we stand up.
The school is utterly unrepentant.
Some lawyer is totally going to clean their clock.
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