Rob Kerr’s Combating Intolerance Class Shows Support for Ahmed Mohamed

The students of Kerr’s new Combating Intolerance class utilize class time and social media to discuss injustice faced by teen Ahmed Mohamed.

Combating intolerance is a unique, first-of-its-kind-class that is currently being taught with much fever at West Potomac. It is a class that focuses on topics that most teachers tend to avoid in fear of sparking unconditional bias amongst their students. History teacher Rob Kerr, however, has taken the initiative to start discussing with his students practical ways to recognize and combat social intolerance.

“Intolerance is any type of bigotry—hatred towards a specific group of people based on any number of things. It could be race, gender identification, sexual identity or the religion that they choose—anything that is targeting certain groups for hatred,” explains Kerr.

Actions made based on people’s hate for groups and individuals have become a startling commonality in the world. This can be shown in the case of Ahmed Mohamed, who was a target of unsupported bias because of his religious affiliation. Mohamed was a student in Texas who was arrested after bringing in a homemade clock to school, which the school thought was a bomb. Combating Intolerance thrives to eliminate, if not minimize, these ignorant actions by making a public stand.

In an effort to show support for Ahmed Mohamed, the Combating Intolerance class, as a group, designed paper clocks to emphasize the absurdity of the allegations made against Mohamed.

“Most of us felt that they were really profiling [Mohamed] and if [the school] really had thought he had a bomb, they would evacuate the entire school instead of having the police surround him,” says Senior Harley Divine. “It’s obvious that they really didn’t think that Mohamed had a bomb and so by making those clocks, [the combating intolerance class] wanted to make a point that [Mohamed’s school] really were racial profiling. We just want to convey the message that we don’t support racial profiling or any kind or racism,” Divine elaborates.

Although the clocks were made as a group effort to make a stand against the racial profiling that Mohamed had been subject to, some students in the class wrote their own messages on the back to share their personal thoughts on the matter.

“I made a clock and wrote on the back ‘it’s just a clock,’” admits senior Jesus Castro.

“It’s just a clock” was a phrase that Ahmed Mohamed kept repeating as the authorities detained and later pulled him away from his class.

Along with designing projects like the clocks, the Combating Intolerance class also has in depth class discussions about any form of modern-day prejudice or discrimination, found either in general society or specific elements of social media.

“In class, we’ll do some writing prompts that would generally spur discussion, or the students will bring in current events that we could discuss as a group,” explains Kerr.

The Combating Intolerance class really aims to make a difference by educating others on the irrationality of judgments based on assumptions and hate. It is a very unique elective because it requires students to actually put forth an action plan, rather than just talking about all the stuff they could potentially accomplish.

“We really want to promote acceptance and tolerance at West Potomac,” says senior Harley Divine.