Thursday, September 17, 2015

Clocks and Nonsense

Of all the silly stories I could riff about, this one about the kid who built a digital clock for a science project and was subsequently arrested for making a "hoax bomb" completely takes the pudding. It's kind of hard not to suppose that the doofus teacher who added the name Ahmed Mohamed and the idea of "clock parts in a case" and came up with "Eek! A bomb!" is the only person here who perpetrated a "hoax bomb"--because the young man never told anyone he had a bomb. He had a clock. He was the victim of a dumb misunderstanding, but what gets me is--he got suspended for three days and is apparently still suspended even though everyone by now knows this was not a bomb. Is it that hard for the school to end his punishment and offer up a good apology?

Wow. Also, his parents got a pretty stupid letter from the principal at his school, basically blaming him for the misunderstanding and implying that building a clock was somehow a kind of misconduct because you shouldn't give dumb people any reason to believe you might be doing something they could in any way hopelessly misconstrue into an act of terrorism. (The community this kid and his family live in seems to be "special" regarding Muslims.)

Anyway, the young man has gotten support now from the President and from Rep. Ellison of MN and a lot of science-minded folks as well. There's also a Kickstarter to get him to MIT.

I'm not going out of my way to say I think this looks like profiling. At that age, I think if I was building a clock, I'd have half-assed it with one of those pre-set potato clock kits (just add potato!) Clearly, there could be suspicion that I was carrying the latest in IRA bomb technology. Luckily my tastes in the sciences ran to biology experiments (although my collection of assorted moldy, yeasty and fermented things I brought in to discuss beneficial and less-beneficial microbes in 8th grade should definitely have counted as small-scale biowarfare development).

We live in very weird times. It shouldn't actually be a handcuffing offense to do one's homework.

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