Ben Carson Wants To Turn The Department Of Education Into Thought Police

Instead of eliminating the Department of Education, Ben Carson wants to give it a new, bizarre, and dangerous mission.

Ben Carson apparently thinks that the Department of Education should be used to monitor so-called “bias” in public universities:

Ben Carson says he would not get rid of the Department of Education, a position contrary to several of his Republican White House primary rivals.

Instead, the retired neurosurgeon said the agency should be used to monitor America’s colleges and universities for “extreme political bias.”

“I actually have something I would use the Department of Education to do,” Carson said on Glenn Beck’s radio show on Wednesday.

“Would it be pack boxes for the State Department? The IRS?” Beck joked.

“No, it would be to monitor our institutions of higher education for extreme political bias and deny federal funding if it exists,” he responded.

“I like that,” Beck rejoined.

Given the fact that Carson has a long history of saying ridiculous things about public policy issues that are largely based on what can only be described as profound ignorance on this part, it’s easy to dismiss what he’s said here just as one would dismiss many of the other things he’s said. After all, this is the same many who has equated the Affordable Care Act to the September 11th attacks, made frequent use of Nazi analogies to criticize the President,  and said that “progressives” want to turn the United States into Nazi Germany. He has also compared abortion to human sacrifices by civilizations of the past and claimed that prison rape is proof that being gay is a choice. However, this isn’t just the ranting of a guy on talk radio or Fox News Channel, these are comments made by the person who is currently running second in the polls for the Republican nomination for President of the United States, and the man who according to a new Quinnipiac poll is actually leading Donald Trump in Iowa now. He raised $20 million in the quarter that concluded on September 30th, and is apparently so confident in his current position that he has spent most of October on a book tour rather than campaigning. While it’s unlikely that he will be the Republican nominee in 2016, it’s also undeniable that Ben Carson is now a force in the Republican Party and that means that what he says has consequences, and that he probably wouldn’t be saying it if he didn’t believe it would appeal to the voters he’s trying to attract. For that reason alone, it shouldn’t be dismissed.

On it’s merits, of course, Carson’s proposal is both nonsensical and highly dangerous.

It’s nonsensical in the sense that Republicans have long argued that the Department of Education either shouldn’t exist at all, or that it should serve mostly as just a central coordinator for the distribution of Federal education funds to the states and localities that ought to have primary control over education policy. Instead, Carson proposes and idea that would mostly likely require a vast expansion of the Department of Education, not for the purpose of improving educational quality but for the purpose of policing alleged political bias on college campuses. This is an issue that has been one that conservatives have been talking about for decades and been the centerpiece of claims that professors and students who express conservative political beliefs have been punished in some way or another. In that sense, I suppose, it’s not surprising that Carson would jump on it for political purposes. Notwithstanding that, though, the lack of logic displayed by a candidate who claims to favor limited government is really quite something to see even if the hypocrisy isn’t surprising at all.

The danger in Carson’s suggestion is the same danger that conservatives who talk about political bias on campuses are always complaining about. In essence, he is suggesting the creation of a Federal College Thought Police that would punish professors, administrators, and possibly even students who engage in what “political bias,” whatever the heck that might be. The chilling effect that this would have on academia is so obvious that barely needs to be pointed out. Professors and Administrators who are afraid that exploring controversial topics could endanger funding are obviously going to avoid exploring those topics. The idea that a classroom lecture could end up being used to support a charge of “political bias” would obviously chill speech significantly as well, and cause professors to wonder if their students are spying on them, or if their students are part of Ben Carson’s Department of Education. Add into this the fact that what Carson is proposing is the kind of suppression of debate and discussion that would violate the First Amendment, and the insanity of Carson’s idea becomes even more apparent.

As I said, it would be easy to dismiss what Carson says, but the fact that he’s doing so well in the polls suggests that, like Donald Trump, he’s saying things that Republicans agree with, and that’s something that should concern all of us.

FILED UNDER: Academia, Campaign 2016, Education, Law and the Courts, US Politics,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. C. Clavin says:

    Republicans want an Authoritarian Plutocracy.
    You are surprised to find this out?

  2. grumpy realist says:

    Someone send this idiot a book on Soviet Russia. Hell, send him a book about the Red Scare. Also send him a book on university history. One of the reasons the whole idea of tenure got started so scholars wouldn’t be at the beck and call of whatever political winds blew from the government.

    This guy is a total, complete nitwit.

  3. Scott says:

    @C. Clavin:

    Authoritarian Plutocracy

    AKA Fascism

  4. Mu says:

    @grumpy realist:
    . Hell, send him a book about the Red Scare.
    Don’t, he’ll use it as an instruction manual.

  5. Tillman says:

    [Mr.] Carson apparently thinks that the Department of Education should be used to monitor so-called “bias” in public universities

    Mr. Carson treats objects like women, man!

    *cough*

    This is exactly what we need on top of the various one-shot freelance pieces we have in some media circles about how college life is changing with student protests and trigger warnings. Some more top-down pressure to change a problem that probably doesn’t exist, or if it does isn’t really a problem beyond vague omens.

  6. gVOR08 says:

    The chilling effect that this would have on academia is so obvious that barely needs to be pointed out.

    To half the country. The other half regard ti as a feature.

    Shouldn’t it be mentioned that he’s a bit, I’ll reverse my brother, the Reverend Bruce’s phrase, over-churched? That he is in fact a Dominionist whack job.

  7. gVOR08 says:

    @gVOR08:

    regard ti

    I was going to edit that, but I think I’ll leave it, and see if Pinky wants to make something of it.

  8. C. Clavin says:

    @gVOR08:
    You hack.

  9. C. Clavin says:

    @grumpy realist:

    This guy is a total, complete nitwit.

    And leading the polls in Iowa!!!
    Go Republicans!!!!

  10. Mikey says:

    @gVOR08:

    Shouldn’t it be mentioned that he’s a bit, I’ll reverse my brother, the Reverend Bruce’s phrase, over-churched? That he is in fact a Dominionist whack job.

    I guarantee you he is not a Dominionist, unless he has strayed very far from his Adventist roots. If there’s one positive about Adventism (and it’s probably just one), they are as staunchly in favor of the separation of church and state as any hard-core atheist.

    Over-churched…now that he definitely is.

  11. Rafer Janders says:

    However, this isn’t just the ranting of a guy on talk radio or Fox News Channel, these are comments made by the person who is currently running second in the polls for the Republican nomination for President of the United States,

    You say that like there’s some difference between the two. Face it, ever since Bob Dole there’s precious little daylight between the declared policy preferences of the GOP and the rantings on Fox News.

  12. al-Ameda says:

    Wait a minute:
    Don’t we already have a de-facto “bias monitor” – Fox News?

    (1) Dr. Carson is proof-positive that being very successful in one field of endeavor does not necessarily mean that you have anything intelligent or worthwhile to say about anything else.

    (2) A corollary to that is, just because a candidate says patently false or offers idiotic policy prescriptions on a number of subjects does not mean that people will soundly reject that candidate.

    (3) A further corollary to that is, at any given moment at least 27% of the people will support just about any candidate who has shown his/her self to be completely out-to-lunch.

  13. DrDaveT says:

    @grumpy realist:

    Someone send this idiot a book on Soviet Russia. Hell, send him a book about the Red Scare.

    Big Ben doesn’t read; he writes.

  14. DrDaveT says:

    @Mikey:

    If there’s one positive about Adventism (and it’s probably just one), they are as staunchly in favor of the separation of church and state as any hard-core atheist.

    Of course; they know which way the pointy end of that stick would point…

    Adventists also tend to be notably kind to animals, in my experience.

  15. Just 'nutha ig'rant cracker says:

    @Mu: There is that problem. One of the threads in my Master’s thesis was how one person’s warning becomes advise on how to succeed for another.

  16. Just 'nutha ig'rant cracker says:

    @Mikey: Adventists also have dietary principles (laws?) that can be wise for people to follow, too, but that may get us near the edge of the benefits.

  17. Kylopod says:

    The unintended irony of this is astounding, given Carson’s railing against “political correctness,” a phrase that was originally used in the context of criticizing colleges for stifling free thought. This is a man who compared the US to Nazi Germany on the grounds that “We now live in a society where people are afraid to say what they actually believe.” Never mind for the moment that that’s far down the list of the Nazis’ actual crimes. Carson’s remarks aren’t just loony, offensive, and ignorant, they’re utterly hypocritical.

  18. anjin-san says:

    @grumpy realist:

    Soviet Russia

    It’s fascinating how like the Soviets conservatives have become – the rigid adherence to ideology, the unerring ability to dismiss inconvenient facts out of hand, and the powerful urge to crush any & all dissent.

  19. Mikey says:

    @anjin-san: And a lot of them love Putin.

    It’s like, the circle of history, man…

  20. CSK says:

    @Mikey:

    Well, a lot of the love for Putin is based on the facts (sic) that:

    1. He’s a tough guy who don’t take no sh!t from nobody.

    2. He hates fairies.

    3. He claims to be a Christian.

    What could be better, man?

  21. Ryan says:

    Hey, first time checking out your site. I won’t be back.

  22. michael reynolds says:

    It’s a battle for the soul of the GOP. A battle between the swinish circus clown and the idiot-savant-with-extra-idiot. Which will Republicans choose? What is their core value? Is it their love of loud drunken, buffoonery and low-rent bullying? Or is it their rejection of reality and descent into mad, quasi-religious fantasy worlds? Which is most important to the party of Lincoln?

    Man, put that on a graph:Abraham Lincoln to Donald Trump. Your GOP, ladies and gentlemen.

  23. Franklin says:

    @Ryan: Care to say why?

  24. bricko says:

    @C. Clavin:
    He stated issue a bit inartfully, but concern is legitimate as far as diversity in academia. Diversity of THOUGHT, not color. When you have political donations at universities that have 95% going to Democrats…..that is concerning in what students are hearing in class. Maybe not so much in hard science, but all the early required humanity stuff is extremely troublesome. Lots of temptation for indoctrination to one side when all are of one persuasion.

  25. Thomas Weaver says:

    Hmmm. The more I learn about Carson. Thanks for pointing this out. It is huge in my eyes. This is the second of five other things I’ve come across about Carson. The other thing, today, was that he is associated with Seventh Day Adventists which for a lot of people means little but speaks volumes to me. I consider this very close to a ‘cult’.