Thursday, May 6, 2021

Creativity met with backlash

On Monday, Sept. 14, freshman Ahmed Mohamed brought his homemade clock to his Irving, Texas, high school. Later that day, he was led out in handcuffs and suspended for two days.

His creation, made out of a pencil case, alarmed the 14-year-old’s teacher. His school called the police, and he was arrested, according to a CNN article.

Plattsburgh State Associate Professor of Teacher Education Mark Beatham said every state has requirements about safe school protocols, and schools are supposed to have procedures in place to send up alarms. He said he wasn’t surprised that the high school reacted the way it did.

“They’d rather be wrong, like in this case, than to be fooled and have someone get hurt,” Beatham said. “People are hyped up now about the amount of school violence we’ve had in so many different places, and it seems to be random and out of nowhere, and we can’t seem to find a pattern.”

In situations less drastic or similar to this, a student’s attitude toward learning could change.

For example, Beatham said, if a student comes up with a question in class that the teacher hasn’t thought of, suddenly the teacher is the “proverbial deer in headlights.” He said they would rather look the other way or dismiss the question rather than look awkward of ignorant, which discourages students’ curiosity.

Jill Conway, a PSUC graduate student in the special education from birth to sixth grade program, said that as a teacher, her goal is to create a comfortable environment for students to learn and strive. She said that she didn’t agree with what happened in Irving last month.

“It disrupts the whole safe environment,” Conway said. “For some students, the classroom is the safest place that they have, and to see that, it could shake up a student a lot.”

Adam Newman, a classmate of Conway’s, said the school should have been more supportive of him rather than making a scene. His standpoint on teaching is to make the students strive in what they can do and what they like and to incorporate that aspect into other lessons to encourage them to enjoy those subjects, as well.

“(Motivation) needs to be embedded early on,” Conway said. “Elementary education should be when the students want to learn, and as they go on, their motivation lacks. If they aren’t motivated, it wouldn’t lay the correct building stones for their higher education.”

Beatham said it is essential for students to have the drive to learn.

“If a kid is motivated, that’s 85 percent of what you are doing because then you’re just guiding the student,” Beatham said. “The student can be an autodidact, and they can really learn a lot from themselves.”

Conway said she feels as though America’s education system is getting further away from students being motivated and that is one of the hardest aspects of education. She said that since this incident, students will probably be less likely to show the initiative to create and learn the way Mohamed did.

Since his suspension, he has received enormous support from many high-profile Americans, including President Barack Obama, who tweeted two days later asking if Mohamed would bring his clock to the White House.

“We should inspire more kids like you to like science. It’s what makes America great,” Obama’s tweet said.

Beatham said he has continuing frustrations when it comes to education, as it has been a controversial topic.

“I would like to see more sincerely prepared folks being involved with the questions about what’s best for the kids,” Beatham said.

Email Lisa Scivolette at

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