In his 1990 autobiography “Gifted Hands,” presidential hopeful Ben Carson stated he was introduced “to General Westmoreland, and I had dinner with him and the Congressional Medal winners. Later, I was offered a full scholarship to West Point.”
Many perceive the statement to be untrue while many others defend it. This is all over the news at this point — one side of the political spectrum is claiming media bias and the other calling out the hounds on Carson.
Regardless, the inconsistencies in the story make many doubt whether or not he even met Westmoreland. Essentially, Carson stated that he was suggested to apply to West Point, and he conflated it in his autobiography.
There is one thing I find despicable within this story and that is that Carson’s claims cheapen the experience of struggling college students in the United States. His “full ride” narrative almost makes failure inexcusable for the masses as he shows how he overcame adversity and was offered free college. The further he gets from his impoverished past, the more out of touch with reality Carson seems to become. This is the man who, Tuesday night, in a country with the price of college tuition increasing at disproportionate rates, claimed that wages in the U.S. were too high.
According to a 2011 CBS report, only about 0.3 percent of American students receive full ride scholarships per year — that’s fewer than 20,000 students. These scholarships go primarily to students who exhibit financial need and a few are reserved for exceptional students or athletes. Full scholarships just aren’t that likely and they aren’t that common outside of military academies*.
In Tuesday night’s fourth Republican debate, Carson twisted his dishonesty, as he historically has done, as intentional media fabrications. The man of too many inconsistencies to count is one to say “if you have a brain, you can think your way out of everything,” yet blames the media for everything that has gone negatively during his campaign, claiming that Hillary Clinton is treated better.
Carson is especially twisted when it comes to his education politics and is hardly a person for whom those invested in education should vote. On numerous occasions he has claimed that education in the U.S. is just a huge propaganda system — while at the same time claiming that “education worked for him.” He puts down public education, and when asked what he will do as president, he has said:
“I actually have something I would use the Department of Education to do. It would be to monitor our institutions of higher education for extreme political bias and deny federal funding if it exists.”
Wait, what? This is the same man who said: “I know you’re not supposed to say ‘Nazi Germany,’ but I don’t care about political correctness. You know, you had a government using its tools to intimidate the population. We now live in a society where people are afraid to say what they actually believe.”
Are Carson’s intentions to limit political beliefs in universities not intimidating? Is his God complex which decades of brain surgery have nurtured nothing to be alarmed about? Are his little white lies and misleading comments about mundane things not a red flag?
Carson’s logic regarding education and his potential responsibilities in this area is twisted and contradictory. He rallies against political correctness, yet wants to filter out political bias that he doesn’t agree with from schools. He thinks wages are too high, but believes that everyone should be educated — not giving much thought to how lower wages will help pay for the rising cost of tuition. Monitoring universities and cutting their funding based on political beliefs is not only horribly against first amendment rights but also extremely detrimental to poor students who rely on federally funded Pell Grants and financial aid. Carson’s alma mater, Yale, and his former employer, Johns Hopkins, rely heavily on federal research grants.
According to Carson, we are all part of a huge propaganda system — thus, our educations are discredited. Carson might be a highly educated neurosurgeon who attended fantastic schools and got ahead against all odds — but he is not a champion of education, especially the education of the poor and middle classes in the U.S.
As a college student, Carson’s recent media debacle about his “West Point scholarship” is troubling. Troubling, because it is all too easy for him to insinuate that if you have bills or debt, you don’t have a brain because you, or any struggling college student, could have joined the military, but you didn’t. You could have worked harder to earn either a rare athletic or academic scholarship, but you didn’t. Carson makes criticism the media’s fault and expensive higher education our burden.
*Editor’s Note: The cost for attending a government military academy (e.g. West Point) is technically free for students. However, there is a mandatory service commitment following graduation.