Since 2018, the call to purge the good doctor was typified by the scurrilous charge of a DPSCD board member who claimed that naming the high school after Dr. Benjamin Carson, M.D., was “synonymous with having Trump's name on our school in blackface.” For more polite consumption, this political sin was couched in the collectivist jargon of totalitarians. Dr. Carson, who was raised by a single mother in a gritty part of the Motor City, matriculated from the Detroit Public Schools, graduated from Yale and the University of Michigan Medical School, and rose to become John Hopkins Hospital’s chief of pediatric neurosurgery, a presidential candidate, and Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, evidently “did not reflect Detroiters.”
DPSCD board members’ hands shot heavenward and – despite the Superintendent’s recommendation and the wishes of the students – it was done. Dr. Carson was canceled.
And the Detroit Public Schools’ students, parents, teachers, and the general public learned a valuable lesson, just as the board members intended: you can be anything you want…except a Republican.
Still, perhaps the unintended lessons of Dr. Carson’s cancellation will be even better remembered, for they are certainly more honest and instructive.
On his part, appearing on Fox News the good doctor facilitated the unintended lessons by exhibiting sagacious equanimity in the face of his detractors:
“It's very sad that we've reached the point where political ideology trumps the whole purpose of an educational institution,” Carson said on Hannity.
“And we're seeing this wokeness spreading throughout our community to the destruction of our community. How does it do any good for us to demonize people with whom we disagree and to teach that to our children at a time when the math scores are down, the reading scores are down; academic performance is down?
“We need an inoculation to indoctrination.”
Dr. Carson’s response was emulated by his admirers in an opinion piece written by Andrew Hughes, a former HUD staffer, who along with fifty-five other former staff for Dr. Carson at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, opposed the decision:
“Dr. Carson is the epitome of the American dream. Only in our country could a poor boy from the inner city grow up to be a world-renowned neurosurgeon, presidential candidate, and Cabinet secretary. He personifies the very promise of America. Through hard work, opportunity, and faith in something above self, just like Dr. Carson we can achieve anything we set our minds to.
“But even for all his accomplishments, Dr. Carson’s own words sum it up better than we ever could: ‘When we have done our best, we also have to learn that we still need to rely on God. Our best — no matter how good — is incomplete if we leave God out of the picture.’
“The truth is, Dr. Carson should have dozens of schools named after him. We firmly believe removing the name of a man like this leaves us all the worse off for it, especially the students this political stunt purports to set an example for. We hope each student aspires to be the type of leader Dr. Carson is: a compassionate and humble man that cares deeply about the future of our children.”
Thus, the first unintended lesson of the purging of Dr. Carson is prominent and inescapable: the DPSCD board is more concerned with partisan political stunts than about students; more concerned about indoctrination than education. And every educational metric proves their abject failure to students, parents, teachers, and everyone who cares about these children and their future.
Another, even more bitter unintended lesson cannot be lost upon DPSCD teachers. It is one of the highlights of a demanding profession when one of a teacher’s students reaches their potential. This is especially so in urban districts, with all the daunting challenges that can hamper the student’s opportunity to attain an education. In a 2015 Detroit News article, a retired Southwestern High School biology teacher spoke with pride about his former student, Dr. Carson, who he remembered as a “special, mild-spoken” young man: “He struck me…as having a really good capability for something. He had the perseverance to go where he was going. [Now] he gets involved with young people, and stresses that you can be better than you are.”
My late uncle Frank McCotter was right to take pride in his former student. Doubtless, he and the current crop of dedicated Detroit Public School teachers would be aghast knowing that one of their prized pupils, who had realized their potential and accomplished so much for not only themselves but others, could be cancelled by the DPSCD board – or by anyone – for the sin of their not toeing the Democratic Party line. After all, isn’t it the goal of education to ensure the student is prepared for and capable of a lifetime of independent thought and learning?
What, then, should be the unintended abject lesson of the DPSCD board’s cancellation of Dr. Carson? In the same Detroit News article, one gleans the answer:
At Higgins Elementary [which Dr. Carson attended], Principal Dorothy Riley says the school has posters of Carson they always put up for Black History Month in February. “I just replaced his picture in a glass showcase with that of the mayor [Dennis Archer],” she says.
“Our kids need Dr. Carson’s inspiration,” Riley says. “My poverty rate here is 85 percent. Our kids need to realize that they can sit in this crazy science class and come out a doctor.”
Or anything their dreams inspire –
Including a Republican.
The DPSCD’s Know-Nothings be damned.
A Human Events contributor, the Hon. Thaddeus G. McCotter (M.C., Ret.) represented Michigan’s 11th Congressional district from 2003-2012, and served as Chair of the Republican House Policy Committee. Not a lobbyist, he is a frequent public speaker and moderator for public policy seminars; and a Monday co-host of the "John Batchelor Radio Show," among sundry media appearances.