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The Ahmed Mohamed Story Shows How The U.S. Stifles Innovation

Posted by New Leaders Council 4 Admin on September 17, 2015 at 10:55 AM

Originally published on September 16 on Forbes by Judy Stone.

The U.S. is lagging behind other countries in science and math. What’s our response? Arresting yet another curious, innovative teen. This time, 14-year-old Ahmed Mohamed was arrested at his Irving, Texas, school for having proudly shown his teacher a clock he had made. The teacher, thinking it looked like a bomb, had the high school freshman arrested—but school officials did not bother to evacuate the school for the threat they perceived.

While the U.S. tries to perpetuate a myth of superiority, we are falling behind in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) education. The Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) reported that the U.S. ranked 36th out of the 65 countries studied by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) in math, 28th in science and 24th in reading, despite spending far more per student. Not surprisingly, top performing countries included China, Japan, Singapore, Hong Kong and Finland. Even small countries like Estonia and Lichtenstein rank higher, according to a Pew Research Center Report. We are consistent. The prestigious World Economic Forum also ranks the U.S. as only No. 48 in quality of our math and science education.

Some of what happens in this country appears to be xenophobic and racist, and is being fueled by current fear-mongering and political pandering. Another example is that of Kiera Wilmot, the Florida teen who was arrested for a science experiment gone awry, with a volcano experiment accidentally blowing up. She was expelled from school and charged with two felonies, although there were no injuries or damages. In response to that travesty, Andrew Thaler (@southernfriedscientist) posed a question on Twitter: “how many of y’all accidentally blew something up in high school doing science?” He got a remarkable number of stories of science gone awry, Storified here. As Thaler notes in an accompanying blog, zero-tolerance policies “disproportionately affect students of color and Florida has the largest School-to-Prison Pipeline in the country.”

Read the full story here: