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The U.S. education system is failing Ahmed

Obama should encourage teachers and police officers to do what they are paid to do

Yara al-Wazir

Published: Updated:

The 14-year old Ahmed Mohamed of Irving, Texas will now have to answer the question on visa applications “have you ever been arrested?” with a “yes”.

His only crime was proudly bringing his ingenious-looking clock to school one morning –which saw him led away in handcuffs and taken to a juvenile detention center. As a result, his future is tainted, all because of his bright and curious nature.

The American education system has failed Ahmed, and those like him. It has failed to dissociate itself from institutionalised racism. It has failed to do its job to inspire and teach young visionaries to lead the future.

Wasted futures

What happened to Ahmed Mohamed is part of a greater systematic problem when it comes to Americans of colour. Over 70% of school children who have been arrested are from African-American or Latino descent. This creates an environment in which students no longer trust their teachers or adults, which leads to wasted futures.

The zero-tolerance policy in the American education system has had children arrested for throwing temper tantrums, or scribbling on desks.

Yara al-Wazir

As much as the Muslim world would like to blame the American education system for discouraging Ahmed from pursuing his dreams because he is Muslim, the reason is not quite that simple. The zero-tolerance policy in the American education system has had children arrested for throwing temper tantrums, or scribbling on desks. The policy has a history of inherent racism due to ethnicity, and not simply due to religion.

When we’re living in the age of robotics and surviving in a culture that thrives on technological advancements, this is perhaps the biggest slap in the face for thinking outside the box.

Obama steps in

Despite our dependence on science and technology, studies have shown a shortage of students undertaking science, mathematics, engineering and technology related subjects. Yet this young 14-year-old Ahmed was taking the first step into a bright future full of inventions and breakthroughs when he was arrested.

The U.S. President Barack Obama took to Twitter to address the biggest and most disturbing takeaway from this case: the fact Ahmed, and those like him, may be discouraged from pursuing their passions and contributing to the world.

The issue of systematic racism needs to be addressed as well. Just as Obama took to Twitter to encourage Ahmed to pursue his passion, he should do the same to motivate teachers and police officers to do what they are paid to do: teach, encourage, motivate – and create a thriving, safe, environment.

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Yara al-Wazir is a humanitarian activist. She is the founder of The Green Initiative ME and a developing partner of Sharek Stories. She can be followed and contacted on twitter @YaraWazir

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.