Tech Industry Stands With Ahmed - InformationWeek

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9/16/2015
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Tech Industry Stands With Ahmed

The Texas student detained for bringing a homemade clock to his high school has won the support of technology and political leaders.

NASA's New Horizons Transmits New Pluto, Charon Images
NASA's New Horizons Transmits New Pluto, Charon Images
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Technology industry executives and President Obama made it clear that they don't support the arrest of a Texas teen for tinkering, an activity they view as key to improving science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education.

On Monday, Ahmed Mohamed, a 14-year-old Muslim student at MacArthur High School in Irving, Texas, was detained for bringing a "suspicious-looking device" to school.

The suspicious-looking device turned out to be a science project: A handmade digital clock. According to local ABC affiliate WFAA, the Dallas chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations said Ahmed was arrested because of his religious and racial identity.

(Image: Irving Police Department)

(Image: Irving Police Department)

A letter sent out on Tuesday by Principal Dan Cummings acknowledged the arrest and, despite finding no cause for alarm, cautioned parents to review school policies. "We will always take necessary precautions to protect our students," wrote Cummings.

Such protection amounts to guns at institutions of higher education. Over the summer, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott expanded local gun laws to allow concealed handguns on college campuses.

The clock did not, as school officials initially feared, explode. But social media did.

A press conference was held by the school district and the Irving Police Department to justify their actions. Afterward, President Barack Obama, via Twitter, invited the Texas student, since released, to Washington. "Cool clock, Ahmed," President Obama said in a tweet. "Want to bring it to the White House? We should inspire more kids like you to like science. It's what makes America great."

NASA added its voice, tweeting that it supports STEM education and kids like Ahmed.

[ See what happens when technology meets forest fires. Read Using Data To Fight Wildfires: An Inside Look. ]

Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook, the world's largest social media network, condemned the arrest. "Having the skill and ambition to build something cool should lead to applause, not arrest," he wrote in a Facebook post. "The future belongs to people like Ahmed."

Zuckerberg added that if Mohamed ever wants to stop by Facebook, he'd be happy to meet.

Box CEO Aaron Levie chimed in with an invitation to visit his company. And many others, like Anil Dash, an early supporter of Ahmed's cause, voiced similar expressions of support.

Hillary Clinton, Democratic candidate for president, in a tweet said, "Assumptions and fear don't keep us safe -- they hold us back. Ahmed, stay curious and keep building."

The Irving Independent School District acknowledged the arrest on its website but offered few details, citing privacy laws. On Wednesday, the district said it felt media reports were unfair. The district said it will provide further information to the media if the family consents.

Thomas Claburn has been writing about business and technology since 1996, for publications such as New Architect, PC Computing, InformationWeek, Salon, Wired, and Ziff Davis Smart Business. Before that, he worked in film and television, having earned a not particularly useful ... View Full Bio

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Whoopty
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Whoopty,
User Rank: Ninja
9/17/2015 | 4:53:56 AM
Great, but...
It's good to see so many rallying behind the kid, as making a clock yourself is a very cool achievement. However the hipocrisy in some of these statements is staggering.

Clinton specifically saying "assumptions and fear don't keep us safe," is ridiculous, when it's that exact frame of mind that has turned the western world into a bunch of surveillance states: fear and assumptions that anyone could be a terrorist.
Ariella
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Ariella,
User Rank: Author
9/17/2015 | 12:22:20 PM
Re: Great, but...
Woz posted this on Facebook:

The story about the kid arrested for making a clock takes me back to high school in 1967. I built an electronic metronome and placed it in a friend's locker, along with a tin-foil switch to speed up the ticking when the locker was opened. I couldn't hold my laughter when Principal Bryld told me how he extracted the 'bomb', ran out to the football field (from the C building), and dismantled it. I wound up spending a night in 'juvie'. I did teach other inmates there how they could remove the electric wires from an overhead fan and attach them to the metal bars no shock the guards.
[I think he meant "to" rather than "no shock the guard.:] In the comments, he notes, "I'd suggest that slight misbehavior is an essential ingredient of creative thinking."
TerryB
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TerryB,
User Rank: Ninja
9/17/2015 | 1:05:27 PM
Re: Great, but...
Amen @whoopty. Especially if you look like a Muslim, then the assumption is you are one until you prove you are not.

I would love to see how the school policy is worded they used to suspend that poor kid. And sounds like teachers and admins at that school really get involved to get to know their students at that school. They should have have already known he was a bright, good kid and assumed the best before they assumed the worst. That was obvious on the 30 second interview I saw on the news.

And we are talking Texas, where high school coaches instruct kids to blindside football referees who they aren't happy with.  
Whoopty
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Whoopty,
User Rank: Ninja
9/18/2015 | 7:14:12 AM
Emails
If we want to get really political, we could even look at how Hilary Clinton hid her emails on a private server and deleted a good number before handing over access. She lives in a world of fear already but is happy to suggest everyone else shouldn't. 
SaneIT
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SaneIT,
User Rank: Ninja
9/18/2015 | 8:22:41 AM
Re: Great, but...
I don't see this as a racial issue, I see it more as a problem with the zero tolerance rules and not allowing adults to make adult decisions.  Right away the story said that one teacher knew what it was and they had talked about it.  However he showed up with a beat up metal case full of wires at a time where kids are being suspended from school for making gun shapes with their hands.  I haven't heard Ahmed speak but being intelligent doesn't mean you make wise decisions, he's still a kid and kids do foolish things like bring weapons to school.  
progman2000
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progman2000,
User Rank: Ninja
9/18/2015 | 9:14:18 AM
Re: Great, but...
I think I am in agreement with you. Good on him for making a clock or whatever it was, but if it looks like a bomb, it needs to be looked at. If he showed up with a real bomb and killed some kids this would be a different discussion. We live in a time when kids go into schools and kill other kids - and it has nothing to do with race, unless we are talking about white kids since that is the usual profile of a school shooter.
TerryB
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TerryB,
User Rank: Ninja
9/18/2015 | 9:33:05 AM
Re: Great, but...
@progman2000, definitely not the looking at I have a problem with, that would have happened in our day. It's handcuffing the kid and suspending him from school even after they realized what was going on I had a problem with.

This isn't the same as a naive kid bringing his Dad's unloaded 44 to school to show his buddy. Or a pellet gun. A light suspension to send a message to all kids at least makes some sense. But what did this poor kid do wrong? It never crossed his mind people were going to think he brought a bomb in.

Where do we draw the line now? If I bring my favorite baseball bat to school for practice, am I getting suspended for having a weapon? And if you don't think there wasn't some racial element to this also, you haven't spent enough time in Texas. I'm pretty sure the white homecoming queen would not have been handcuffed while they sorted this out.
Stratustician
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Stratustician,
User Rank: Ninja
9/18/2015 | 2:30:11 PM
Re: Great, but...
I agree, sadly much has changed since we were in school and tolerance for anything seems to be way down now.  It becomes a point of "could this item be mistaken for anything potentially harmful" trumping everything.  It's sad, but there is still a divide when it comes to tech, or anything in general.  There will be those who will immediately think of the negative aspects and those who think "hey, that's neat".  We've gotten to the point where we just have to assume that there will be a negative view first and often it will escalate before any understanding just to mitigate any potential risks to others.

I am so glad I am not a student anymore, it breaks my heart we've come to this point.
danielcawrey
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danielcawrey,
User Rank: Ninja
9/18/2015 | 3:36:23 PM
Re: Great, but...
Interesting article. It seems to me that law enforcement in this case was on some sort of high alert for some reason. I've never seen a homemade digital clock, but it looks like it took a lot of work! We certainly do need more people who want to tinker with things like this!
Charlie Babcock
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Charlie Babcock,
User Rank: Author
9/18/2015 | 6:31:21 PM
If Secret Service OKs Ahmed, maybe, Irving School officials should
Ariella, that's a great capture of the Steve Wozniak story about being sent to detention for putting an electronic metronone in a friend's locker. If nothing else, we should thank Ahmed for eliciting a bit of Silicon Valley hstory that may not have been told before. I would ask whether any of the adults at the Irving School responsible for the suspension or handcuffing actually knew the 14-year-old. The first reality check might have been: Is this child more likely to bring a gadget or a bomb to school? Clearly, if Ahmed can get past the Secret Service and into the White House, it might have been the former.
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