If American schools continue suspending students for completing impressive science projects, it seems inevitable that they will continue to lag behind international standards for STEM education. And for one Texas high school, one of their best and brightest has decided to leave the institution following his high profile arrest for building a clock that was mistaken for a bomb.
In one of the most infuriating and, quite frankly, tragic cases of racial profiling, 14-year-old Ahmed Mohamed was put in handcuffs after his homemade clock was deemed a bomb. Shortly thereafter, social media exploded with righteous indignation, quickly drawing attention to the many instances of young, white children who’d completed similar projects that were not thought to be destructive weapons. Now, Mohamed’s father has pulled all of his children out of Irving Independent School District in Dallas, and Ahmed is no longer a student at MacArthur High School.
“Ahmed said: ‘I don’t want to go to MacArthur,'” Mr. Mohamed said to The Dallas Morning News on Tuesday. “These kids aren’t going to be happy there.” He also revealed that the frenzy of media attention and obvious stress that has come along with the racially charged incident has caused the teen to lose both sleep and his appetite. “It’s torn the family, and makes us very confused.” While Ahmed has certainly had no shortage of offers to attend other schools (in addition to some pretty snazzy invitations from tech companies and political leaders alike), the situation, as he describes it, remains “very sad.”
“I built a clock to impress my teacher but when I showed it to her she thought it was a threat to her,” Ahmed said, “I’m very sad that she got the wrong impression of it.”
The entire ordeal, which is as embarrassing as it is frustrating for a nation that is meant to laud diversity and creativity, does have some silver lining, however. Ahmed and his family will be flying to New York on Wednesday to meet with officials from the United Nations, and President Obama, who has been a vocal supporter of Ahmed’s since the news first broke, has extended an invitation to the tech prodigy for a White House visit.
But as a respite from all the attention, the family will first be making a pilgrimage to Mecca in Saudi Arabia, where Mr. Mohamed says, “I ask Allah to bless this time.” And it is a tumultuous time for Muslims in America — indeed, being called a Muslim almost seems synonymous with an insult, or something to be defended against. Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson has publicly stated that he “could never support” a Muslim as the nation’s leader, and Donald Trump has also come under fire for failing to correct a supporter who incorrectly stated that President Obama is a practitioner of Islam.
Despite all the racial progress we’d like to claim we’ve made, the evidence to the contrary is stacking up, and if we’re not careful, we’ll lose some of the best talent in the country.