‘Cancel culture at its worst’: Decision to erase Ben Carson’s name from Detroit high school gets buried in backlash

The Detroit School Board voted quietly last month to change the name of the Benjamin Carson High School of Science and Medicine, named after Dr. Ben Carson, a 2016 Republican presidential candidate who went on to work in the Trump administration as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development.

As for the reasoning, it appears that the name change was the result of Carson’s politics and association with Donald Trump.

“The push to change the name came as its namesake — a renowned neurosurgeon — courted controversy during his tenure as housing secretary in the Trump administration,” Chalkbeat Detroit reported.

A group of more than 50 HUD staffers who worked for Carson penned an op-ed published by Fox News declaring that “it’s wrong to let cancel culture erase a school name honoring Dr. Ben Carson.”

“We, former staff for Dr. Carson at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, write to set the record straight and celebrate the incredible accomplishments of the good doctor, with the hope that more focus is shined on students and less on perceived political slights,” the editorial said. “Dr. Ben Carson was born into poverty in Detroit and raised by a single mother. He grew up attending Detroit public school, and his mother worked multiple jobs to provide for him and his brother, Curtis.”

Noting that Carson’s mother instilled in him and his brother “the values of hard work, perseverance and faith” while growing up in difficult times, the op-ed pointed out that Carson was taught that “through education, anything was possible in America.”

“Thanks to these values that his mother worked so hard to instill, Dr. Carson earned a full scholarship to Yale and began his undergraduate education there,” the staffers said. “After his time at Yale, he went to the University of Michigan School of Medicine, and then on to Johns Hopkins University for their neurosurgery program.”

After a storied career as a neurosurgeon, Carson would launch a presidential bid and then join the Trump administration.

“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,” the editorial stated. “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.”

The op-ed concluded:

“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.”

 

There appears to be some confusion over an administrative recommendation and student poll to keep the name as is. The board voted on a name change for a second school, according to Chalkbeat Detroit, which said the board rejected an administrative recommendation to keep the name of that school as is –Superintendent Nikolai Vitti cited a survey showing that 59% of the students responding were opposed to a name change.

“There was no debate about the name change at Tuesday’s meeting,”  the nonprofit education news organization said of the school named after Carson. “An overwhelming majority of students, alumni, staff, parents, and community favored a name change.”

Keep in mind that Detroit is a deep blue area… at the same time, the name change prompted plenty of pushback online.

Social media user David Burke tweeted: “In spite of a student poll & superintendent recommendation, the Detroit School Board voted to change the name of Benjamin Carson High School of Science & Medicine. Dr Carson, who grew up in poverty, should be an inspiration to us all. Shame on [Detroit Public Schools].”

Franklin Graham weighed in as well, tweeting: “Cancel Culture at its worst. The Detroit School Board voted to change the name of the Benjamin Carson High School of Science and Medicine. I agree with those who worked with [Dr. Ben Carson] should have dozens of schools named after him!”

Here’s a quick sampling of other responses to the story from Twitter:

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