I sat down to work on a pile of reading, projects, and writing this morning, and saw that my twitter feed was lighting up over… something. I clicked a few links. My heart sank.
Ahmed Mohammed, of Irving, Texas, a 14 year old who loves making and building, has been arrested because he built a clock at home and brought it to school and, in essence, insisted it was a clock rather than “admitting” it was a bomb. Because it was a clock. He was arrested because we are apparently incapable of believing, now, as a country, that a Muslim student who loves to invent and tinker and explore mechanical concepts would build something that’s not a bomb.
He was arrested — we arrested a 14 year old 9th grade boy — while wearing a NASA tshirt.
As a human being, as an American, as an educator, as a maker, as a parent, this horrifies me. We’ve allowed ourselves to become a nation that flinches at the idea of a Muslim boy tinkering and inventing. We’ve allowed ourselves to permit our schools to punish creativity and initiative when it comes from people around whom we’ve built a profile of suspicion and mistrust. We’ve allowed ourselves to believe that the right reaction to innovative and energetic exploration, when committed by the “wrong” people, is to arrest them. To arrest a boy. For building a clock.
I don’t want to live in this world. Fortunately for me, I’m in a position to do something about it.
I work at a college that welcomed more than 1100 returning students who self-identified as a cultural minority, out of a population of 4000. I work at a college that has prioritized creativity in our teaching, learning, and experience. I work at a college that is putting substantial institutional time and resources into inclusive excellence in all that we do. I work at a college that is expanding its Center for Diversity at the same time that it’s created a Center for Applied Learning. I work at a college at whose daycare my toddler sat down to breakfast with other 2 year olds of multiple ethnicities and religions.
I work at a college that will help change this world for the better.
I work at a college that would welcome Ahmed Mohammed into our ranks, and make sure that he had access to opportunities to create, invent, be mentored, be encouraged, and be celebrated. We would invite him to participate in our Ideas Competition. We’d help him find an internship with a company that values inventors. We’d link him with an alumni mentor and build a support network. We’d task him with being an ambassador to others from underrepresented groups who might be interested in science, technology, inventing, entrepreneurship.
We’d help him grow, and become his best self.
I don’t want to live in a country that would do anything else.
I particularly don’t want to live in a country that would arrest him for being curious and creative, and learning. That’s not my America.