Daily Archives: May 13, 2010

America Values Science and Engineering. Not.

Some 12 year old boy in Medway, Ohio got arrested and charged with arson today (albeit as a juvenile) for making and setting off some weenie little homemade explosives made of household chemicals.

It wasn’t inside any structure, it wasn’t in dry grass, it didn’t hurt anybody or anything, or himself. He did apparently underestimate how far he ought to go from his house before setting his explosives off, because there were a couple of small flying plastic fragments stuck in the wall of the kid’s house. (They also didn’t do any harm, and they weren’t driven very deep.) There weren’t even any scorchmarks in the grass for the shocked, shocked TV camera to show.

A kid doing chemical experiments that Blow Up Real Good is not an arsonist, unless you have some kind of pathology associated with the way he’s doing it. It’s much more likely that he’s just plain curious about things Blowing Up Real Good, which is perfectly natural — and is often the key to a lucrative science career benefitting all mankind.

I can understand that the police might worry about a threat to public order; but I can’t understand why the heck you’d charge a kid on a first offense — and with arson — instead of something like reckless behavior or disturbing the peace. Heck, why didn’t they just give the kid a stern talking to??

Sheesh, if you really wanted to unleash the big guns, you could always have somebody come over from the regional bomb squad or local emergency ward, and tell the kid horrible war stories about homemade fireworks accidents and bad explosives handling practices.

If the police and parents (or the neighbors, reasonably) are worried about stuff like potato rockets or pop bottle “bombs”, they ought to be channeling these kids’ energies into model rocketry or some kind of chemistry club. Treating them like criminals is ridiculous. Why would you want to send a kid to juvenile detention, and expose him to bigger meaner kids who really are criminals, and probably druggies to boot?

This just kills me. If a bit of harmless Blowing Things Up Real Good were arson, most of MIT, Caltech, and Purdue’s students would be in prison for life. Not to mention the guys at UD and Wright State’s engineering and chem departments, right down the road from Medway.

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