Monday, January 18, 2010

Fear is not a virtue

I know there have been a million news items like this, but this is the one that puts me over the edge.
SAN DIEGO — Students were evacuated from Millennial Tech Magnet Middle School in the Chollas View neighborhood Friday afternoon after an 11-year-old student brought a personal science project that he had been making at home to school, authorities said.

Maurice Luque, spokesman for the San Diego Fire-Rescue Department, said the student had been making the device in his home garage. A vice principal saw the student showing it to other students at school about 11:40 a.m. Friday and was concerned that it might be harmful, and San Diego police were notified.

The school, which has about 440 students in grades 6 to 8 and emphasizes technology skills, was initially put on lockdown while authorities responded.

Luque said the project was made of an empty half-liter Gatorade bottle with some wires and other electrical components attached. There was no substance inside.
Luque said the project was intended to be a type of motion-detector device.
Both the student and his parents were "very cooperative" with authorities, Luque said. He said fire officials also went to the student's home and checked the garage to make sure items there were neither harmful nor explosive.

"There was nothing hazardous at the house," Luque said.

The student will not be prosecuted, but authorities were recommending that he and his parents get counseling, the spokesman said. The student violated school policies, but there was no criminal intent, Luque said.

I finally understand Al-Qaeda's master plan, and it's freaking brilliant. Resenting American technological dominance, they have found a way to end it, convincing us to semi-criminalize technical curiosity and thus lobotomize our culture. I'm just surprised that we're choosing to participate in the plan. I thought we were on opposite sides?...

Is there a political movement or group I can join to fight this? Common-sense people grousing about how stupid each incident is is failing to hold back the tide. Something vaguely like the EFF but with a broader scope - because all science and technology is under attack now.

Fear is not patriotic. Fear is not a public service. Fear is not a virtue.


Anonymous said...

What is the world coming to? It's only a matter of time before "carrying a suspicious device" is a shoot-on- sight offence. Who needs courts anyway? They just waste time ...

Robin Norwood said...

Obviously the word 'Tech' in the school's name is someone's idea of a sick joke.

I hope that the 'counseling' recommended by unnamed 'authorities' is for the trauma caused by their heavy handedness and not an attempt to say the student or his parents did anything wrong.

Anonymous said...

You have hit the nail on the head.

This isn't just about Al Qaeda, it's about risk aversion in general in this country. Without risk there is no gain and no progress.

Scott K

Joseph said...

Yes, this is getting common and troubling. My friend was almost arrested for Geocaching with a homemade GPS in an urban area. It was very hard to convince the police that a Radio Shack project box, external GPS receiver, and attached battery pack was not a bomb.

Tim... said...


Laptop: Those can be used by hackers you know!

Home chemistry set: Suicide bomber in the making.

Kite: Trying to disrupt flight paths.

Gym: Possibly training for terrorist activities.

Bomb-related joke on Twitter: Send in the big guns! That sort of terrorist means business.

Arrest everyone, Only way to be sure! :)



shiihs said...

Stories like this make me laugh and cry at the same time.

Anonymous said...

Software Engineers. You successfully
completed your career and retire
to a life of tinkering.
You even hope to invent something for HUMANITY and 'open source.'
Saturday, August 9, 2008
Chemist allowed to go home, sans his lab.

When science is outlawed, only outlaws will practice science.

When hacking (not cracking) is outlawed, only
outlaws will practice computer security.

Too bad, America! Want to do
bio-informatics on STEM CELLS?
Go to Asia and China.

Anonymous said...

If you'd like to learn the cause of the decline of the United States read Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand --

The cause is much more fundamental than most people think.

Brandon Corfman said...

I don't know of a group that fights this sort of stupidity, but if you find out anything, please post it.

Jack Diederich said...

I'm surprised schools haven't outlawed pencils in favor of blunt crayons and magic markers. Kids get suspended for possessing Tylenol, carrying pocket knives, and sexual harassment of the "1st graders hugging" variety. Throw in banning Dodge-ball, tag, and cowboys & indians. Common sense fled school administrators long before Al-Qeada came along.

This is a longstanding trend: in the 50s most urban schools (to say nothing of rural) still had rifle teams and in my own formative years it was still perfectly acceptable to use flamable liquids in a science project or use a sword as a prop for a book report. Thankfully the trend cannot continue because we have no where else to go but back.

Anonymous said...

Come to Europe :-)

Chris Pittock said...

This is totally ridiculous. When I was about that age, I was always taken weird and wonderful creations into school. No one batted an eye lid and now I'm a Professional Engineer.

Fortunately I haven't heard of any such stupidity here in England. I don't think we suffer from your country's level of paranoia.

You really need to knock it on the head or you'll lose a generation of Steve Jobbs & Bill Gates!

Anonymous said...

I agree that this situation is entirely repugnant to common sense. But we, as a nation, have no one to blame but ourselves. We elected and re-elected the spineless blunderkinds that set our national security policies, that lead to situations like this one.

Everyone should recognize that if this kid had brought a bomb to school and no one said 'boo,' the majority of parents would be calling their lawyers -- and their legislative representatives.

Before our legislators and school admins "grow a pair," the residents of the surrounding communities need to do so. "Live free or die" is not a slogan. You don't defend liberty by sending soldiers to a foreign country. You defend liberty by living free and accepting the risks. Frankly, I don't see that happening any time soon.

Eckyman said...

"Is there a political movement or group I can join to fight this?"

If there is.. I want in too.

The recent collapse of common sense in our society is beyond a joke now.

"Against logic there is no armor like ignorance"

Anonymous said...

Teacher want more pay. They need to prove that they are intelligent enough to deserve the extra pay. The more I hear stories like this I wonder if we are training our children with our least intelligent adults.

Tim Lesher said...

Is there a political movement or group I can join to fight this?

It's more general "don't put your kids in bubble wrap" than technologically-related, but look into the "Free-range Kids" movement at

They tackle and expose things like this. They've gotten some real press publicity, and released a book by the same name.

mikesum32 said...

"It had a very sinister appearance. It had a battery behind it, and wires."

Never forget what hasppened in Boston.

mikesum32 said...

Typo, d'oh!