24 May 2013

Zero Sense for Ms. Wilmot

A short while ago, a young precocious black student named Kiera Wilmot accidentally made a mildly exothermic reaction by combining aluminum foil and toilet bowl cleaner as a chemistry experiment before school. The powers that be freaked out, called it a bomb and charged her with multiple felonies. She was handcuffed in her own school and lead out like a criminal to face charges carrying over a decade in jail time. Fortunately, the charges were dropped but there were still serious and unnecessary repercussions for this tiny accident. I will not dwell on this because she has written up her own experience quite eloquently and I do not want to speak for her.  Here's the link, please read it it is short and sweet: Kiera Wilmot: An Unexpected Reaction, Huffington Post, May 2013

This young woman writes better than most of my colleagues who are PhD candidates and Doctoral degree holders! She is clearly contrite, but why the school felt the need to expel her over something so minor is beyond me. From her post:

"Right now I'm at Bill Duncan Opportunity Center, which is for students who were kicked out of school. People are teasing me and calling me a terrorist. And the school is actually quite easy. I'm not getting the challenge that I used to have. I don't have homework. There is no German class and there is no orchestra. I probably couldn't even bring my cello because I was told the students would steal it. "
It's heartbreaking to read this. Those who push the boundaries of the system are the ones who are most likely to break things and the most likely to be caught in the jaws of the zero-tolerance trap.  We like to pretend that this system it is colorblind, but there clearly still is discression in how things are defined. If this was a young blond girl with a rich daddy, I'm sure not a thing would have happened because the principal would have been cruicified. I am fortunate that none of this affected me (doesn't hurt that I didn't get to academia through a traditional route), but as a black man I am sure I would have gotten the 9th degree as well.

All human organizations come down to, at the end, a person to person interaction. The fact that our system feels the need to strip almost all judgement from those lieutenants on the front lines like teachers and principals is beyond me.  All this can do is lead to worse outcomes on the aggregate just to prevent some of the most ridiculous actions from those who should not have any power in the first place. Not to mention all the frustration and sense powerlessness this instills in our bureaucrats which is worth an investigation in and of itself.

I'm sure this will not get the press it deserves because the DA's office here is not stupid enough to grind this young woman's bones to dust, but this is just another example of the horrible injustices that go on every day in our academic institutions. If the administrators will not show any judgement, then how can we expect the students to learn it?

No comments:

Post a Comment