Teaching moment

The Internet exploded today with the story of Ahmed Mohamed, a geeky 14 year old in Texas who likes to tinker with electronics. He made a clock over the weekend and brought it into his high school to show his engineering teacher. When some of his teachers discovered it, they assumed, for various reasons, that it was a pretend bomb and decided to call the police. At this moment the story could have gone two ways. Unfortunately, the school and the police department chose the wrong way, arresting the young man, putting him in handcuffs, and the suspending him from school. Oh, and I’m sure the fact that he was an immigrant with the name Mohamed had nothing to do with their bad choices.

The better choice would have been to turn this entire moment into an opportunity to teach. First, the school could have used this event as a way to talk to Ahmed about how he needs to be careful about how his inventions look, because they could be perceived the wrong way. They could have informed him that it would be better to keep his inventions at home as to not disrupt school, but perhaps encouraged him to work with the engineering teacher after school, or with the robotics club (which he had been a part of at his middle school) to give him an outlet to express his hobby.

There was also a teaching moment that the police department could have created. When they were called to the school, they could have assessed the situation there in the principal’s office, and had a similar discussion about why they were concerned about how his invention appeared. They could have defused an obviously over-reacting school official and brought a moderating tone to the entire situation.

Instead, no teaching moments were to be had. Until now, when the story hit the Internet and the entire world is getting to see how insanely stupid some school officials were in their judgement. A young man was subjected to the embarrassment of being arrested, put in handcuffs, and interrogated, all because of people’s unfounded biases. It’s moments like this that make me sad to be a part of the human race.