By SUZANNE DOWNING
In Alaska, the annual migration of students back to the classroom starts in the middle of August before the first frost covers the windshields. For Anchorage, it’s this week. As in other places in the nation, the return to campus life is filled with trepidation and hope for families.
One might ask: Which school district in America would pass up the opportunity to have a globally acclaimed Black American neurosurgeon kick off the school year right with an inspirational assembly?
Who would forgo the chance to have this historic figure inspire young minority students with tales of his transformative journey from poverty to becoming a revered figure in pediatric neurosurgery?
Step forward, Anchorage, Alaska School District, and take a bow.
Dr. Ben Carson, admired by Americans everywhere, was poised to address the students of Mountain View Elementary School, where 91% of the students are minorities. Within these school walls, fewer than 9% of the students demonstrate math proficiency and fewer than 14% are proficient in reading. Check the scores here.
Surely, this would have been a prime setting for Dr. Carson to instill hope and encouragement, because these students mirror his own beginnings seven decades prior. It would cost the district nothing to allow Dr. Carson to speak.
However, Superintendent, Dr. Jharrett Bryantt, newly arrived from Houston, Texas, slammed the door shut on the world-renown surgeon, saying he is not welcome in Anchorage schools.
Citing vague reasons about students’ focus on starting the academic year and ensuring “safety,” Bryantt turned down the opportunity to be inclusive of someone who can motivate and encourage.
The precise reasoning leading to this decision remains unclear. Some speculate it may be due to Dr. Carson’s association with the Trump administration, in which he served for four years as the secretary of Housing and Urban Development. Some speculate it’s Dr. Carson’s increasingly vocal criticism of American education, as found in his most recent book, “Crisis in the Classroom.” Perhaps it’s his pushback on Critical Race Theory with his “Little Patriots Program.” Regardless, the loss of such a golden opportunity for students is undeniable.
Dr. Carson embodies the American Dream, as living proof that America, in all its vastness and diversity, is a land of endless possibilities, a place where, regardless of one’s beginnings, an individual can rise and shine.
But the narrative of the Left, which has taken control of the education systems of America, seems inclined toward divisiveness and polarization, with more emphasis on tribalism and less focus on unity and success. The Left doesn’t want minorities to succeed.
A brief review of Dr. Carson’s achievements might offer some perspective on the values to which the Anchorage superintendent won’t let the children be exposed: Born into poverty and raised by a mother with a third-grade education, young Ben Carson faced numerous challenges: a self-admitted bad attitude, lousy grades, and low self-esteem.
Over time, thanks to the tenacious push from his mother, he transformed his outlook, embraced education, and eventually became the youngest major division director at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. At that point in his life, he was just 33 years old. He had already performed the first and only successful separation of craniopagus (Siamese) twins joined at the back of the head.
He retired from medicine in 2013, but that was not the end of his story. Dr. Carson ran for president in 2016.
Now in his early 70s, his accolades are extensive, including the highest honor given by the NAACP, the Spingarn Medal; the Presidential Medal of Freedom awarded by President George W. Bush; recognition by the Gallup Organization as one of the 10 most admired men in the world; and recognition as one of the 89 “Living Legends” of the Library of Congress.
He co-founded the Carson Scholars Fund, which has awarded more than 11,000 scholarships totaling over $8.9 million. The Carson Scholars Fund has also installed more than 270 Ben Carson Reading Rooms around the country.
Dr. Carson is sought as a gifted motivational speaker. He’s been awarded 70 honorary doctorate degrees. He’s authored over 20 books, some of them children’s books, such as “Think Big,” and “Freedom to Bark.”
Alaska had hoped to avoid the woke-ism that has taken over school districts across the country. But alas, the infection has spread.
As they return to classes this week, students won’t get to meet Dr. Carson. Instead, students will be handed a form that asks them to determine their own “gender identity,” information that will be kept secret from their parents, who will not know if their boys are being allowed to use the girls’ dressing rooms or restrooms.
We can see where this is heading: The Left is not interested in actually helping minorities succeed. They are interested in tearing the nation apart and driving it toward tribalism and identity politics.
The American Dream, embodied by Dr. Ben Carson, does not fit the woke agenda of the Anchorage School District.
Suzanne Downing is publisher of Must Read Alaska.