Better safe than sorry
September 28, 2015
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Two weeks ago in Irving, Texas, a 14-year old high school student excitedly shared his new invention with his teachers.
The reaction he got from them was quite the opposite of what he expected.
Instead of being praised for his ingenuity in building a homemade clock, his English teacher kept the clock and called the principal. Ahmed Mohamed was pulled from class by the school’s principal and a police officer, and promptly arrested.
Was this a case of the school’s faculty being overly cautious, or was this a case of racial or religious profiling, or even both?
Since that fateful day, Ahmed has been invited to the White House by President Obama, invited to the Google Science Fair, Facebook headquarters, MIT, NASA, and even offered an internship with Twitter.
Ahmed has since withdrawn from MacArthur High School, with the intention of transferring. Undoubtedly, the hallways and classrooms of MacArthur have to hold bad memories of fear and embarrassment.
On its surface, this appears to be a story that was created because the adults in the situation jumped to conclusions.
But when you dig a little deeper, this is a multi-faceted story, starting with how the “clock” looked. If you showed a picture of a suitcase with computer parts and wires inside to the average person walking down the street, what do you think they would say it is?
It’s doubtful, their first answer would be clock. Instead, they would most likely come to the same conclusion that the staff of MacArthur High School came to, and with hundreds of students lives potentially at stake, decided to be safe instead of sorry.
Unfortunately in 2015, bombings and mass shootings, particularly in schools, has become a part of our everyday lives in America. School should be the one place that children can go and feel safe.
Those killed at Sandy Hook, Columbine, or at the Boston Marathon, where a bomb made from a pressure-cooker killed several, would, if still alive, applaud a teaching staff who were trying to do what they thought was the right thing.
The root of the problem in this story is race and religion. Unfortunately in America, the issue of race is never far from the forefront of everyone’s mind. Also, many Americans’ only exposure to Islam is the aftermath of violence perpetrated by the radical terrorist group, ISIS, that is shown on the nightly television news.
In a case like this, race or religion should absolutely not be relavant. If a student brought a suspicious object to class, whether he or she be white, black, brown, blue, yellow, or green, when asked what the object is, a better way to handle the situation than keep repeating that it is a clock over and over with no explanation other than that, would make sense.
At the end of the day, if your child was in the classroom, what would you have rather the teacher do? Take the student’s word for it, and hope that the one-in-a-million chance of a bomb exploding in the school doesn’t happen, or be pro-active and not take unnecessary risks?
Hindsight is 20/20, and it is easy for everyone to pick the situation apart, and say the teachers were discriminating against Ahmed because of his skin color, or that he is a Muslim. But, put yourself in their shoes. When you are a principal of a school and hundreds of kids’ lives are your responsibility, handle it the way you feel is appropriate, just like the principal of MacArthur High School did.
In America 2015, everywhere we go, we have to proceed with caution. As history has shown, a tragic mass killing could be just around the corner. We shouldn’t be afraid of political correctness when lives could be at stake.
Hopefully, this incident won’t negatively influence Ahmed Mohamed’s enthusiasm for learning. America needs more promising young minds among students.
Maybe this experience can be a learning one for everyone involved, and next time the situation won’t escalate.