Surely you’ve read about it, or at least heard about Ahmed Mohamed, the 14 yo boy arrested at school in Texas for bringing in a clock. Just in case being a new high school freshman isn’t terrifying enough. I’m not sure I can come up with any new or brilliant commentary on this, but I couldn’t bring myself to let it pass without mention. The school to prison pipeline grows ever shorter, while the concept of American public schools being about anything other than testing and warehousing grows more fantastical.
When we moved into this apartment, I dumped or donated most of the no longer used toys and build-your-own kits that clogged the shelves. But I looked into the boys’ closet this morning, and found this:
And now you know the truth, Mrs Fringe and Husband are subversive enough to have encouraged our kiddos to use their imaginations, and *gasp* learn outside the classroom. I would say I’m going to send the pinhole camera kit to Ahmed Mohamed, but since he built his clock using his brain, imagination, and spare parts, I’m guessing he’s advanced well beyond this type of thing.
I’ve seen many comments to the effect of “oh, Texas.” But it isn’t “just” Texas, this type of lunacy, this profiling, this purposeful stifling of children’s minds is everywhere. Test scores test scores, who needs learning? Or creativity? Or ingenuity? We do. Who needs to question school rules, what’s being taught and valued in our schools? We do. Who needs to speak up and say racism and fear has overtaken common sense? We do. The teachers in Ahmed Mohamed’s school failed him. The first teacher he showed his clock to who told him to hide it, and the second teacher who reported him to the principal. The principal who called the police. The police officers who arrested him, fingerprinted him, questioned him without his parents or attorney present, stated that he was passive aggressive because all he would say was that it was a clock, they failed him. Not just him, but every kid who attends anything other than the “elite” schools where science and creativity are encouraged. Schools with precious few seats where you either have to test in, win a lottery, live in the right zip code, or pay tens of thousands of dollars per year.
We send our children to school with the assumption and reassurances that the adults in charge will do all they can to keep our children safe. Safe, first and foremost. Before academics, before test scores, before athletics. This boy wasn’t kept safe, he was terrorized. My heart aches for his parents, trying to imagine what his mother must have thought and felt when she first heard. Anyone else remember being taught that old trick about principal/principle? The principal is a pal. Not to a kid who’s brown. Or poor. Or smart. Or questioning.
I’m guessing most of us have been faced with at least one moment in our lives where we made a decision based on fear. Those moments don’t generally result in rational thought and educated decisions. But yesterday’s incident was based on pure, willful ignorance and prejudice. It isn’t an honest debate about the advantages/disadvantages of high stakes testing, if it’s worth having our schools look and act like prisons complete with lockdowns, metal detectors, and bars on all the windows, or even whether or not girls should be allowed to wear belly shirts in school. If you’re thinking Mrs Fringe doesn’t sound impartial and unbiased, you’re absolutely right–because Mrs Fringe is a blog, for my blatherings, not a fact-checked news source. If only we were teaching our kids to tell the difference. But I suppose that would also be suspect; mustn’t question what’s on the screen in front of you–unless of course you disagree, and even then, don’t question, just attack, facts be damned.
I read something yesterday, a comment on a Facebook thread that referred to his arrest and suspension as science-shaming. WTF? This doesn’t need a pretty and politically correct label, it needs to be called what it is. Bullshit.
This morning everyone is gleefully celebrating the support shown through the #IStandWithAhmed hashtag on Twitter. President Obama invited him to the White House, he’s being celebrated and receiving invitations from the techiest of the big tech folks. That is wonderful for him and his family, and honestly, I hope they win a huge judgement in a lawsuit. But I can’t quite celebrate, because this shouldn’t have happened, and no matter what opportunities come his way, I imagine being criminalized for making a clock will shape every decision he makes from now on. Him, and every other young person who saw this news.