Posted by: morgan1965 | September 20, 2015

Encountering Youth Creativity with Common Sense

The news over these last several days has been saturated with stories about how the Irving, Texas police detained ninth grader Ahmed Mohamed. The story is that Ahmed was detained because he brought a clock he made into the school. Apparently the clock consisted of a circuit board attached to a LED display.

Initially the Irving police claimed that the device was a “hoax bomb.” It turned out to be a clock, a home – brew clock. Apparently, no one – teacher, principal and police officer – would accept Ahmed’s explanation of what he had built.

The fourteen-year old was arrested and placed in handcuffs. To be sure, school officials are responsible for the safety and well-being of all children placed in their care. In addition, they have the responsibility to foster and nurture the gift of creativity that God has given to each student in their educational facility.

Did Ahmed’s teacher know him or anything about him? Did she take the time to listen to his story? Did she collaborate with other teachers who might have known him better than she did. Perhaps these teachers might have been able to provide some helpful background information. It appears that Ahmed is a regular kid who loves science and experimentation. He likes to construct experimental projects at home in his bedroom workshop.

Did Ahmed’s principal know him? Did he take the time to sit down with him and listen to his story? Did he consult with one of the science teachers – physics teacher, chemistry teacher – on the school faculty? What insight could one of the science teachers have rendered about Ahmed and his homemade clock?

Based on the information made available to the public, it appears that the principal made the decision to call the police. Enter the police. Did the police assume that it must be a bomb of some kind – a “hoax bomb?” Were the officers on the scene qualified to make that judgement? Did they call in the bomb squad or other experts qualified to make a judgment about what kind of device they were looking at?

This story is in part about what can happen in a school when school personnel encounter home brew creativity. It is also about the super-sensitive zero tolerance policies and the lack of common sense that have crept into our schools.

I am reminded of the story about the Rocket Boys who grew up in Coalwood, West Virginia. Homer “Sonny” Hickman, Jr. lived in the small coal mining town named Coalwood, West Virginia. After he saw the launch of the Russian satellite Sputnik, he decided that he wanted to join the American team of rocket engineers called the Missile Agency when he graduated from high school. Several local boys became known as the rocket boys during their high school years in West Virginia… For three years, they launched experimental home-brew rockets with modest success. They launched a total of 35 rockets without expulsion from school or arrest by the local police.

Homer Hickman went on to graduate from Virginia Tech in 1964 with a degree in industrial Engineering. Prior to his retirement from federal service in 1998, Hickman was the payload Training Manager for the International Space Station Program.

In May 2013, Hickman presented 16-year old Florida High School student Kiera Wilmot with a scholarship to the United States Advanced Space Academy. By the way, this award was made in the aftermath of Kiera’s expulsion from Bartow High School and arrest on felony charges (which were later dropped). The context for these two actions arose from a science experiment that Kiera conducted on school premises that resulted in a small explosion.

Creativity and responsibility, however, should be encouraged in our youth.

Well, I have some questions. What do you think?

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