DailyDirt: What (Not) To Do With Smart Kids…

from the urls-we-dig-up dept

Last week, lots of people were outraged that a 14yo kid was handcuffed and arrested for bringing a homemade clock to school. Some folks tried to point out that such extracurricular projects should never be brought to school… because we live in a “day and age” of terror or something. That suggestion — that kids need to somehow restrict their enthusiasm for trying to impress their teachers with something they’ve made outside of school — is awful. The education system is often faulted for failing to improve test scores and leaving more than “no children” behind. However, Ahmed Mohamed’s experience highlights that schools might want to start thinking more about how to identify talent and nurture skills that are valuable beyond taking tests.

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Comments on “DailyDirt: What (Not) To Do With Smart Kids…”

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Uriel-238 (profile) says:

School is more like a prison than an institution of learning.

Indeed, my experience in school was that you learned what the teachers taught you because it was expected, not because that material would be useful, and much of it was rendered about as dry and palatable as hardtack.

And history was whitewashed American exceptionalist propaganda.

People learn different ways. I learn from creating and doing projects. Some people need to hear stories. Some people need pictures. Some people need to read and write about it.

We knew in the 70s that the lecture/lab model worked only for a small minority. We knew that kids were being neglected, that some were abused by teachers, administrators and students, and that no-one was doing a thing about it. It enrages me that it’s still the case. It may even be worse now that politics is so polarized

Adjusted for cost-of-living, teachers are paid even less now, and principals and appointed officials are paid more. Cafeterias serve ketchup-is-a-vegetable junk food. We have larger classes and more teaching to the standardized tests. And then we blame our kids for being imbeciles.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: School is more like a prison than an institution of learning.

Some schools are literally a prison. We avoided going to the local middle school when part of what we learned in the orientation was that every entrance had metal detectors, students needed identification and permission at all times, and armed police roamed the halls.

Thrudd (profile) says:

Re: School is more like a prison than an institution of learning.

In certain parts of the states that may be true but here in Ontario they make well above average in pay and benefits as well as having a huge say in administration.

We would love to bring in the hard working caring teachers if only we could dump the privaledged self important jerks we have now.

I see way too many new luxury cars in school parking lots and whining on anything that could smack of accountability by the unions here.

Spaceman Spiff (profile) says:

Boy am I glad!

That I’m not a high school student these days? If I were, I’d still be in prison 50+ years later! Ok, what did we do?

1. Made thermite bombs for 4th of July events. Big flash! Big noise! Very cool!
2. Made NI3 (Nitrogen Tri-Iodide), a contact explosive. Use anhydrous ammonia to saturate iodine crystals. Spread on floor (in the boys’ bathroom in our case), and then wait for the pop, pop, popping as they stepped on them! Fun!
3. Made nitroglycerin. We realized that washing the acids from it to stabilize it was more than we wanted to deal with, so we left it in the acid solution to disintegrate without exploding!

Yeah, we were AP chem students and the lab assistants, so we had easy access to all the base chemicals needed! FWIW, we both ended up with full college credits for chemistry… 🙂

JoeCool (profile) says:

Re: Boy am I glad!

Same here. Powdered aluminum, Iodine crystals, and water. It’ll clear out the school in a flash! Pun intended. We’d throw bits of magnesium into people’s beakers for fun.

Anywho, on the story about the boy persecuted over the “fake marijuana”, I bookmarked it in my “funny” category, then had a thought that maybe I needed a “horrifying” category for these stories.

On the topic of what to do with kids who are too smart, I haven’t the faintest given that no one wants to spend the money. I went through school utterly bored by the material. Just getting a perfect grade wasn’t nearly enough, my goal for every test was to finish the test before the teacher finished passing it out. My folks wouldn’t let me skip grades on the guidance counselor’s advice that I’d never make friends with older kids. Of course, since I was too smart for my age group, but not a younger student, they never felt the need to restrain their showing me what they thought of ruining curves and in general being a smart ass. There weren’t any schools for smart kids anywhere we lived, so I just plodded along, reading books or drawing in class to try to relieve the boredom. One kid in geometry class tried to get me in trouble, but the teacher just told him if he maintained a 100 average in his class, he could do whatever the hell he wanted just like me.

Thank goodness “zero tolerance” policies weren’t all that big at the time as I’d have been in big trouble given the hell I put most teachers through in my boredom. I was smarted than nearly every teacher I had, and not afraid to let them know it. Given many of the policies most schools have today, I wouldn’t have lasted a single year before ending up being hauled off by the cops for something really stupid.

Craig Welch (profile) says:

Re: Boy am I glad!

Boy am I glad – to read that another potential criminal made nitrogen tri-iodide at school. We soaked blotting paper (if anyone else can remember that) in the solution, and left the residue in the school hall on the last day of school (1965). The principal swept majestically down the aisle resplendent in his robes, and then entered the mine-field. He jumped at the first explosion, then raced through the next. We thought it was fantastic. I still do.

Thanks for the memory.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Boy am I glad!

Oh man, my high school chemistry class got to make thermite bombs too. That was so cool. It is a shame to think we’d all be convicted felons right now if it had happened today instead of 15 years ago. And our chemistry teacher was a black man from South Africa, I’m terrified to even think about what today’s police would have done to him…

Anonymous Coward says:

Those people are right I feel. You wouldn’t want your kid to write an essay on “How much I like my Jewish neighbours” in Nazi Germany, or “Capitalism isn’t bad” in the USSR, so by pretty much the same logic they shouldn’t bring devices that look like a Hollywood prop bomb to school in post-9/11 USA.

Writing this out made me realise that the current regime of tyranny is pretty much run by idiots, which makes it all the more terrifying. It’s like 1984, but written by Douglas Adams.

Anonymous Coward says:

When it comes to “high ability” students, there are some who cannot understand the teacher’s method no matter HOW hard they try, but they can “think outside the box”, and come up with their own solution.

More kids have that problem then you think, because a lot of kids may have “high functioning” autism, like I do, that caused me that kind of problem in school

voiceofReason (profile) says:

What "Smart Kid?"

There’s nothing smart or homemade about a kid taking a 1973 digital clock out of its case, sticking it into another, bringing it to school, and then refusing to listen to a teacher who told him to put it away because it looked dangerous, and then the kid taking it to another classroom.

Take a look at pictures of it. It looks like a classic Hollywood bomb. If it had shown up like this in the street where the pope is visiting the street would be cleared and the bomb squad called in. Same thing if found in an airport. This is another example of political correctness run rampant. And, I suspect that it was a manufactured crisis. Look who his father is.

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Re: Non-smart kids

Yeah, we discussed this in the articles when the news came out. Let’s not look at all the grown-ups mistaking him for a terrorist when we can call him out for being a fraud.

Frankly, having the wherewithal to put a clock in a pencil case is pretty good for a 14-year-old tinkerer, no matter what words he used. Note that he’s not on the stand, hasn’t been coached by his lawyer and is freakin’ fourteen. But if he’s not really a boy genius, somehow that makes it right that he was cornered and isolated, pressured to sign a confession of intenting to terrorize and was denied some basic human rights that we’d be freaking over if it turned out to be a pretty white girl.

No, the thug card has been played before, and it was sickening then.

Incidentally, if a bombsquad found someone called them in for this, the officers who had done so would be mocked for years back at the precinct. A bomb without a payload is just a clock, no matter how big and bright you make the display. Years.

Anonymous Coward says:


First off, he didn’t “invent” anything. What was shown in the box was a standard, off the shelf, large digit alarm clock with a 4-digit display. He simply removed the clock from it’s original case and mounted the components in the “lunch box”. No magic and no original design. Obviously no one in that school or police department had ever disassembled a table clock. But where did “Hollywood Bomb” come from? Goldfinger maybe? Not big enough. Whatever these people are smoking, it must be really good stuff!

Anonymous Coward says:

Nice to know that we are basing our responses on first determining what the village idiot in the community thinks, and then going with that.

With the Texas kid, the village idiot thought it was a bomb, so it has to be a bomb.

As for the 11 year old, “if another kid thinks it might be marijuana, that’s grounds for expulsion.”

These village idiots watch TV (the boob tube), and because they see something called marijuana on TV or they see something called a bomb on TV, they suddenly become experts everyone listens too?

We need some institution to send children where they could obtain knowledge from intelligent individuals. What we have now, seems to be trade program for village idiots.

On a side note, it looks like about 10,000,000 people watched Scorpion last night. Weep for the future.

Anonymous Coward says:

School Sucks

The system was NOT created to deal with, identify or even understand smart kids. I was bored as fuck in school, now I am a high school drop-out zero college making 6 figures… but no one in the world thinks that anything I have to say has any fucking valued because they do not like how I say it.

The Education system was designed to only do a couple of things, indoctrinate and provide a minimum level of knowledge to keep society functional. It is not there to improve humanity, nor improve the nation (this is just a potentially positive by-product). It only serves the purpose to try to prevent the degradation of society via incompetence.

The people that actually give a damn about learning will do so on their own and improve society themselves despite the ineptitude of the education system.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: School Sucks

I was a strait-A math student until I had a high school trig teacher that would not issue a grade unless all homework assignments had been completed. Got all A’s in that class too, but wound up with an F for not finishing the busywork. Not sure what lesson I learned from that, but I dropped out of high school the next year.

Zonker says:

From the second (Japanese maple “marijuana” leaf) article:

It doesn’t matter if your son or daughter brings a real pot leaf to school, or if he brings something that looks like a pot leaf — okra, tomato, maple, buckeye, etc. If your kid calls it marijuana as a joke, or if another kid thinks it might be marijuana, that’s grounds for expulsion.

It doesn’t matter if the assistant principal of Bedford Middle School in Bedford, Virginia is a real child abuser/pedophile, or if they just look like one. If someone calls them a child abuser/pedophile as a joke, or if someone thinks they might be one, that’s grounds for their immediate arrest, firing, and registry as a sex offender.

We can play that game too.

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