All-American Teenage Science Nerd Hero Ahmed Mohamed Invited To Run The World
I for one would like to welcome our new Nerd Overlord
It's been a seriously strange 48 hours for Ahmed Mohamed, the 14-year-old kid from Irving, Texas, who went from potential criminal suspect to instant Geek Hero, thanks to his idiot school's overreaction to a simple electronic clock that scared his school's administration and the police. Not many high school freshmen get to be a hashtag. It's probably only a matter of time until the administration of Irving MacArthur High School and the Irving Police Department pull a Donald Trump on this and start insisting that they be given credit for all they did to bring Ahmed to the world's attention.
Since the Great Overreaction, Ahmed has had a pretty heady day-and-some, because the Internet is a weird place. Yr Dok Zoom's pet theory: It's not merely the obvious injustice of how Ahmed was treated that caught the internet's attention; we think this story blew up, in part, because a lot of smart adults remember the awfulness of being a smart kid in high school, where you're told to excel, to think independently, to use your imagination, to BE YOURSELF -- and then to face the consequences of doing that. Who among us didn't have some asshole dickwad teacher who shat on us for being smarter?
Ahmed's story reminds us of the bullies, the teachers who were putting in time (and the wonderful few who nurtured weirdness), and the administrators who insisted that Rules Are Rules and that, as in the proverb that supposedly illustrates Japanese social conformity, "the nail that stands up will be hammered down." We have a feeling that a substantial portion of those who were pissed off on Ahmed's behalf could identify with a kid who was just plain too smart for his own hick town. It's such a perfect fable of institutional bullshit: An excited creative nerd wants to show off his mad skillz -- "Look at what I built in 20 minutes!" -- and instead becomes the focus of a paranoid freakout. It's like that Harry Chapin song about how flowers are red and must always be red, with the addition of some bigotry and handcuffs. So there's your Dok Zoom Theory of why this story resonated so much with nerds. It could also mean that we're still working through our own public school issues, of course.
Ah, but the nerd army that has been falling over itself to reach out to Ahmed, what a beautiful thing it is. There was the tweet from the president, of course, inviting Ahmed to show off his clock at the White House. And the tweet from Hillary Clinton:
Presidents and wannabe presidents are OK, but then there's also this Zuckerberg guy, who knows a thing or two about technology (and if that one movie's right, about social awkwardness):
Also too, some people who run a little search engine outfit took an interest:
That one was followed by an offer from another tech entrepreneur to pay Ahmed's tab if he decided to go to the Google event.
A Dallas-based hacker group has invited Ahmed to address their next meeting, and has pledged not only to give him access to some technology labs that the average 14-year-old doesn't have access to, but also to send him some wonderful toys, according to a hacker who goes by WhiskeyNeon, the way hackers do:
“We're giving him an Arduino, solar panels, a lot of hardware as encouragement because we support what he's doing,” WhiskeyNeon told Motherboard's Jason Koebler. “As a hacker community, this is our backyard. We're going to stand up and show people what this is all about. We want to encourage him.”
But wait! There's More! Chanda Prescod-Weinstein, a physics professor at MIT, invited Ahmed to drop by anytime for a campus tour, prompting Ahmed to reply that MIT was his dream school:
Dr. Prescod-Weinstein also took the opportunity to do a little local networking for Ahmed, resulting in an invite from astrophysicist Sarah Tuttle at the University of Texas at Austin, who asked him to come and check out the school's telescope building lab:
Prescod-Weinstein also got the chance to repeat the invitation to Ahmed on MSNBC's All In with Chris Hayes -- adding an invite to tour Harvard's astrophysics department as well. Watching this clip, we were relieved to see that for all the instafame, Ahmed is a pretty unpretentious, not media-flashy teenager who politely answers questions "yes" and "no," and needs to be nudged a bit to elaborate on stories, because he's 14 years old, for chrissake, and thank heavens not everybody knows how to automatically do talk-show patter:
Oh, but that grin at the end when Prescod-Weinstein tells him he's the kind of kid MIT wants -- we wish we could bottle that and isolate its antidepressant properties. That's one happy geek kid.
In case you were wondering, yes, somebody's set up a scholarship fund, too. Half the funds will go to Ahmed and half to other kids who want to tinker in STEM fields. It's hit over $10,000 in its first day and runs through Oct. 26.
We won't be surprised if Ahmed eventually ends up hearing from Ubernerd Neil deGrasse Tyson, who appears to be offline at the moment. His Twitter feed hasn't updated since Sept. 14. Get on that, will ya, you slacker?
Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.