It says something about our society when a teenager can bring a science project to school and within 12 hours, he’s been booked into jail, been released, become a social media celebrity, and the President of the United States has invited him to the White House.
By now you’re no doubt familiar with the story of Mohamed Ahmed, a 14-year-old Texas teenager who brought a homemade clock to school. The teenager, who has a fondness for science and engineering (and is a Muslim, which may or may not be relevant to his plight), built a clock out of scrap parts and brought it to school hoping to impress his teacher. School officials apparently thought Mohamed had brought a “hoax bomb” to school; he was arrested and taken to jail. His story became a cause celebré among certain elements, mostly on the Left, with everyone from Mark Zuckerberg to Barack Obama weighing in on the outrage he supposedly endured.
Here’s the problem with the Mohamed Ahmed narrative: everyone involved in this story, including Mohamed himself, made mistakes; mistakes that would pile on top of one another until the entire situation become something between a laughingstock and a cautionary tale.
First, Mohamed Ahmed made a colossal error in judgment in bringing that clock to school, and here’s why: before Mohamed was even born, two boys in Colorado brought guns and bombs to their school, killing 12 of their classmates and a teacher before turning their guns on themselves. The Columbine Massacre ushered in the era of Zero Tolerance; yes, Zero Tolerance is nothing short of out-of-control zeal that criminalizes kids for chewing their Pop Tarts into the shape of a gun, but it’s also the rule of the day in public schools. And that means you don’t bring an object with wires coming out of it to school. You just don’t.
So, Mohamed failed to think things through; but failing to think things through is not a crime, something that no one at Mohamed’s school or the Irving Police Department seems to have realized. The absolute most amount of attention Mohamed’s whatever-it-was should have received was a stern talking-to from the principal – not an arrest, not a suspension. Just a few pointed words. It would have been a conversation that would go like this.
“Look, Mohamed. I admire your ingenuity and your passion for science and engineering. In fact, I think you’re probably going to have a successful career in the sciences. Unfortunately, we live in a world that is on-edge about violence in schools, and your clock could be confused for a bomb. I’ll be keeping your clock in my office, and you can take it home after school. Moving forward, I’ll ask you to keep your science projects limited to either the science classroom or to your home. Now get to class.”
If Mohamed’s principal had done just that, not only would we not be having this conversation, but the President of the United States would not have gotten involved, either.
Cool clock, Ahmed. Want to bring it to the White House? We should inspire more kids like you to like science. It’s what makes America great.
— President Obama (@POTUS) September 16, 2015
Depending on whom you ask, Obama’s invitation to Ahmed was either an example of one Muslim standing up for another; or another example of Obama fomenting racial division in the country; or a compassionate leader standing up for someone who has suffered a grave injustice. But regardless of Obama’s motives for inviting Mohamed to the White House, it was the wrong move. If every American who suffers some injustice gets invited to the White House, the President is going to spend more time doing photo-ops than he is being President.
For his part, Mohamed Ahmed is putting all of this clock business behind him – or at least, as much as he can be expected to. He’s accepted his invitation to the White House – a decision that he really can’t be faulted for, after all; he’s 14 and gets to meet the President; he’s served his suspension; and as CNN reports, he won’t be going back to his old high school – his parents have said they’ll be transferring him to a new school.
Hopefully at his new school, Mohamed Ahmed will leave the rest of his science projects at home.