Ahmed and the Magic Clock
Some objects are magic. You can feel the energy flowing within them. I think Ahmed Mohamed's clock is one of those magic objects. Over 500 miles away, I can sense the energy.
Ahmed's clock has catapulted Ahmed Mohamed to international fame. At the same time, it has exposed the sheer idiocy of the racism and paranoia inherent in our society, where punishment of the powerless is paramount.
In case you missed the story: Ahmed Mohamed is a young inventor and until last week, a ninth-grade student at MacArthur High School in Irving, Texas. Last Tuesday, Ahmed brought a clock he had made to school to show his engineering teacher. Later in English class, Ahmed's clock started beeping. The teacher thought it was a bomb. After all, Ahmed is Black, Muslim and his surname is Mohamed — three strikes against him. Police were called; and Ahmed was arrested and led away in handcuffs by five policemen. When it was ascertained that Ahmed's clock was not a bomb, the police called it a “hoax bomb” and threatened to press charges against him, even though Ahmed insisted it was a clock. The Irving Independent School District suspended Ahmed for three days. The mayor expressed support for the police and the school district.
It is really heartening the way so many “techies” have come to Ahmed's support. Ahmed has received invitations from Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook, Google Science Fair, Microsoft, MIT and on and on and on — and oh yes, an invitation to visit the White House and bring his clock. The City of Irving, the school district and the police department all look like a bunch of dolts — and the longer they insist that they did the right thing in taking Ahmed out of school in handcuffs, threatening him and suspending him, the more ridiculous they look.
Meanwhile, Ahmed will not be returning to MacArthur High School. His family is looking elsewhere for Ahmed to go to school — small wonder. MacArthur High School could have had a student who may one day be instrumental in developing the next generation of computers or something even more important; but they totally blew it. That's what racism and paranoia will get you.
Now, let's suppose Irving, Texas had not been such a racist paranoid city. The incident might have gone something like this:
[Ahmed is sitting in English class when his backpack starts beeping]
Miss Brooks [Ahmed's English teacher]: What is that?
Ahmed: [a little embarrassed] Oh, that's my clock. [Takes the clock out of his backpack] I'm sorry, Miss Brooks. I'll turn it off.
Miss Brooks: Excuse me a minute class. [Miss Brooks leaves the room, calls the principal.] Ahmed Mohamed has an object that beeped in class. He says it's a clock. I don't think it's a bomb, but it looks like it might be one.
Mr. Conklin [the principal]: I'll take care of this.
[Mr. Conklin calls the police. Minutes later Joe Friday and Frank Smith arrive at the school dressed in street clothes. Frank is an expert on bombs. Joe and Frank wait outside the classroom; Mr. Conklin walks in.]
Mr. Conklin: Ahmed I hear you have a clock.
Ahmed: Yes, Mr. Conklin.
Mr. Conklin: I have a friend who is a clock-maker. He'd like to take a look at your clock. Would you come with me?
[Ahmed nods his head. Mr. Conklin and Ahmed leave the classroom.]
[In another room]
Mr. Conklin: Can you let Mr. Smith take a look at your clock?
[Ahmed hands the clock to Frank]
Frank: [Looks at the clock for a minute to ascertain it's not a bomb. Signals that its ok] Ahmed, this is quite a clock. Did you make it all by yourself?
Ahmed: Yes, Mr. Smith.
Frank: Can you show me how it works?
Ahmed: Well, here is the power switch; and here is the timer. I set it to beep at the end of class; but I guess I goofed. It beeped in the middle of class.
Frank: Nice clock, Ahmed. Have you thought about entering it in the science fair?
Ahmed: Yes, I'd like to do that.
Frank: Have you invented anything else?
Ahmed: Lots of things.
Frank: What's your best invention?
Ahmed: I waterproofed the electronics on a remote control car and turned it into an amphibious vehicle.
Frank: Neat! I'd like to see some of your other inventions some time.
Mr. Conklin: [writes out a pass] Ahmed, I'd like you to go back to class now. You can leave your clock here and pick it up after school.
Ahmed: Thank you. [Takes the pass, starts to walk toward the door]
Mr. Conklin: Oh, Ahmed? Next time you want to bring an invention to school, would you ask me first?
Ahmed: Yes, Mr. Conklin.
[Ahmed leaves the room]
Joe: Smart kid.
Frank: I could never have made anything like that when I was in ninth grade.
Mr. Conklin: It's important to nurture kids like Ahmed. Who knows? He may be a great inventor some day.
[End of Incident]
On a personal note: About the time the story of Ahmed's clock went viral, I was trying to decide what book to read to my kindergarten classes this week. I have so many excellent children's books, it's sometimes difficult to decide which one to read next. I was trying to decide between Stephen Kellogg's Mike Fink, Amy Valens's Danilo, the Fruit Man and Eric Kimmel's Anansi and the Talking Melon. All good stories. But after reading about Ahmed, I knew I had to choose Keith Baker's The Magic Fan.
Yoshi is a boy about Ahmed's age. He lives in a small village on the seacoast of Japan. Yoshi loves to make things. He builds houses, wagons, tables, chairs — everything the people of his village need.
One day Yoshi could not think of what to make next. As he sat by the sea thinking, a fan floated toward him. Yoshi picked it up and opened it. On the fan was a boat with a golden sail chasing the moon. This fan is magic, thought Yoshi. It can tell me what to build. He built the boat with the golden sail, pushed it out to sea and watched it chase the moon.
One day Yoshi opened the fan and saw a bridge that spanned the entire village. Yoshi built the bridge; but the people complained that it blocked the sun. Yoshi started to tear down the bridge, when he felt it shake. He opened the magic fan. There was Namazu, the earthquake fish. Yoshi ran through the village shouting, Tsunami! Tsunami! Everyone climbed on Yoshi's bridge. The Tsunami demolished the village; but the people were safe.
In the commotion Yoshi lost the magic fan. How will I know what to build without the magic fan, he thought? But, Yoshi looked within, and found the magic inside him. He would rebuild the village; and then he would build new things: bells to talk with thunder and nets to catch falling stars. He could see quite clearly. He no longer needed the magic fan.
And so, Ahmed, look inside yourself. The magic is there. Tap into it and let it guide you.
And if you are looking for a new home and a new school, please consider Rolla, Missouri. We are not Cambridge or Silicon Valley — just a small town of 20,000 people with excellent schools and home to Missouri University of Science and Technology, a wonderful technical university where I spent the last 18 years of my working life before retirement. Rolla is very accepting of diversity and boasts a beautiful Islamic Center, built by a very vibrant local Islamic community. Please consider joining us.