Conversations About Ahmed: Student Quotes from Class Discussion

Today my class went rogue on our lesson plan to discuss #IStandWithAhmed. I’m not going to sum up the event, but will point out the Washington Post article, @IStandWithAhmed Twitter account, and Ahmed Mohamed Wikipedia entry. I will also say that it was difficult to find any resources without bias; most publications were heavily in favor of the young man. I would have preferred a more Joe Friday “Just the facts, ma’am” account, but we make do, right?

I asked them several questions including:

  • What would you expect if you made a clock at home and brought it to school to show me or another teacher?
  • Why was this important enough to change our lesson plans for the day?
  • What do you think will happen next?
  • Do you think the hashtag will matter around in a year?
  • What does this have to do with you?

Mostly I tried to shut up since one of the hardest things is to listen. Sometimes the conversation got out of control and we need to work on that, but I would like to say one of the greatest moments of today was that by the end of one class, all the students had moved forward and closer to each other as the conversation became more involved.

In any case, I’d like to share  some unedited quotes from my students’ conversations. They come from grades 6-8, ages 11-14.

  • “They were wrong to assume, they didn’t check it out.”
  • “The teacher could have asked him to examine it.”
  • “He looks confused. If he really wanted to do harm, he would have known what he was doing, he wouldn’t look so confused.
  • “No kid that wants to blow up a school wears glasses and a NASA shirt.”
  • “They’re stereotyping him because of his race and he’s Muslim.”
  • “People are accusing of each other of being racist.”
  • “He probably wasn’t even Muslim because a lot of them weren’t Muslim, he was just Indian. Some people aren’t really Muslim.” “You can’t tell they’re Muslim because of the way they look.”
  • “No one knows their human rights anymore. I’ve been reading about this because I am so heated. They need to teach us about human rights.” “They feel we don’t need to know about it because they feel like we’re not mature enough.”
  • “I don’t know who the man is. I just know he’s making our decisions.”
  • “I thought they at least should have investigated and looked in his room and disabled it and reassembled it and figured out stuff before they arrested him.”
  • “At least my cousin isn’t Osama.” [discussing comments made to one of our Muslim students, not in the class)
  • “It would have taken 5 freaking minutes to check. It’s not that hard.”
  • “People like him are geniuses. He’ll grow up to be like Albert Einstein.”
  • “I think he shouldn’t’ve brought the clock to school. He should have asked to bring it to school.” “Even if he asked first, they would have thought the same thing. That it was a bomb.”
  • “But isn’t the numbers supposed to go down? On a bomb? I think the numbers on my clock go up.”
  • -“If a regular white student brought it in, they wouldn’t think he did anything wrong.”
  • “He looked terrified.”
  • “I think the teacher should be fired.” “Why? The teacher did what was right.”
  • “The teacher was racist or didn’t like him.”
  • “How did he get through security?”
  • “With stuff happening around the world, they have to be careful. An ISIS official made a threat saying they would send half a million soldiers to attack Europe and the U.S. when we least expected it. Then you have thousands of Syrian refugees coming here and to Europe that are mostly men with a few women and children.However, they aren’t your average sickly, ill refugees. This are built, strong men who could all be ISIS soldiers. So, by welcoming them here without question and open arms is upsetting so many people. The U.S. government is planning to feed 10,000 of the, which is upsetting U.S. citizens because there are so many of are people that are homeless and starving that aren’t being helped.”
  • “I think it’s stupid. It’s just a judgment call. There’s nothing connected to it that would explode. People just assume it’s all technical and a bomb. It makes kids…it was racial profiling.”
  • “In this day and age, everyone wants to make the world a worse place.”
  • “We’re getting to an age where we’re curious and want to build stuff but we could get accused of trying to make bombs and stuff.”
  • “I think the race doesn’t matter to the teachers. I think the media made it a big deal.”
  • “I feel like it was a good thing that the whole situation was blown out of proportion because it has brought more awareness to things of this nature: racial profiling, religious profiling…”
  • “They could have at least called his parents.”
  • “Even if he explained it, they don’t know what a bomb is made of or what a clock is made of, so it wouldn’t have mattered.
  • “Over the summer, we had #BlackLivesMatter and this is kind of like the same thing. After 9/11, people got a lot more racist against those people so I’m not gonna lie, I don’t think bringing the clock to school was a good idea but it makes sense to ask first because that would have cleared some stuff up.”
  • “I think they shouldn’t have arrested him without letting him show it off.”

PS- My students were very excited that I would post some of their quotes on Twitter.