After reading about Ahmed Mohamed's clock on UpNorthLive, I was confused and concerned with the treatment of a young child by a set of educators and others charged with child safety and well-being. Then I read the letter sent out by the principal at Irving ISD, Dan Cummins. It opened with:
I seriously thought this was an apology letter to Ahmed's and all students' parents who were astonished or worried about how the school had handled the situation. Then I read more:
At this point I am aware that this isn't an apology letter. It's a letter aimed at starting both a defense against litigation and at validating the initial justification for allowing the arrest of a student for nothing other than being a good student. The principal was either creating a shield of defensibility with a thought towards it showing up in court, or he has completely bought in to the concept that the greatest threat to our children is terrorist bombers and rogue gunmen in our schools. This sounds like anxiety talking.
To me the real threat is in the development of an education system that is guaranteed to minimize the emotional and psychological well-being of our children as well as their natural willingness to learn and find meaning. Let's break this down, because I think this is important.
Just like anxiety works on an individual, we are starting to be taught to buy into this concept of group risks. Anxiety tends to expand the belief in both the possibility of an unwanted event and the severity of the consequences of that event. So instead of being slightly worried about being late to the dentist and leaving early to account for this, anxiety tricks you into believing that you are necessarily going to be late and that they won't see you and you won't be able to get help for tooth pain ever again.
Much in the same way, we are now being conditioned to believe that school attacks are commonplace and that when they happen our child will be harmed or killed. This thought pattern usually comes along with the tag line "better safe than sorry" or "you can't be too careful." These are lies brought to you by your brain's inability to perceive incremental, universal changes while being specialized at predicting and preventing large, dangerous changes.
Dan Cumming's perception of the situation shows what his and the school's priorities are: prevent catastrophic events through any means necessary. When I read the letter I thought he was actually concerned about what affect on the students it would have to bring the police in and arrest someone for what would soon be known as a complete non-issue. I thought he was concerned for their psychological safety. I am not surprised that the real priority never involved the feelings of safety and caring, they involved reassurance of an imagined danger.
When you give up emotional and psychological safety and create an adversarial relationship between students and staff, you guarantee that students will be less open to learning and will spend more energy worrying about their own safety. Aside from the legalities of detaining a 14-year-old child without letting him call his parents or speak with an attorney, there is the real consequences of stating, on paper, that the school believes that looking for reasons to arrest students is one of it's priorities. "You can't be too careful." Oh, yes you can. By trading the perception of physical safety from a catastrophe, you are causing damage to all the people involved with the "careful" means used.