Mike Farris: I’m Mike Farris from Home School Legal Defense Association. And we’ve extended an open invitation to all the current presidential candidates to talk with us about their candidacy, and their views on the federal government’s role in education, and a few related topics.
Our guest today is Dr. Ben Carson. Dr. Carson, welcome to our program!
Dr. Ben Carson: Thank you. It’s good to be with you.
Mike: Dr. Carson, why are you running for president?
Dr. Carson: Well, it wasn’t something that was on my bucket list of things to do. I was planning to retire and enjoy myself. But there was so much clamoring. Every place I went, there were people with signs: “Run, Ben, run!” I started getting 5,000 petitions every single week. I have hundreds of thousands of petitions; I could barely get into my office.
And I finally just said, “Lord, if you really want me to do this—all the pundits say it’s impossible—you’ll have to open the doors, because I’m not going to kick them down.” And I said, “If you open them, I will do it.” And he’s opened them; so I will do it.
I have a deep desire to preserve this country as a place of dreams for the next generation. And my whole professional career revolved around children—giving them quality of life and longevity. And I recognize now that their quality of life is going to be severely impacted in a negative way of we don’t become responsible.
Mike: Dr. Carson, the answer that you’ve just given us—which is very insightful—talks about your faith in Christ. What role would your faith in Christ play in your service as president?
Dr. Carson: Well, it would play the same role that it plays in my life now. It’s a central part of who I am. I remember when they were shooting the movie “Gifted Hands,” and major sponsors came along and they said, “This is a movie for a general audience—it’s not for a Christian audience—and therefore we need to take all this God stuff out of here.”
And I said, “No problem—you can take it out. But take me out, too, because it won’t be about me.”
So it’s a central part of who I am—godly principles, loving your fellow man, caring about your neighbor, developing your talents to the utmost so that you become valuable to the people around you, having values and principles that guide your life. That’s something that will be with me no matter what position I have.
Mike: Dr. Carson, turning to the issue of education: what role do you think the federal government should have in education—particularly as to how it affects both private schools and homeschools?
Dr. Carson: Well, I think that the government obviously needs to monitor the education of the populace, because our Founders said that our system and our freedom is based upon a well-informed and educated populace. And if we ever become anything other than that, the nature of the country will change. So clearly we want to make sure it’s happening.
But in terms of dictating how it is done, I think that’s where the problem comes in. And that’s why I have a problem with Common Core. My slogan is “Common Core—out the door.” And in fact, what we really need is more local control. The closer education is to home, it seems, the better it is. Homeschoolers do extremely well, and then private schoolers, and then charter schoolers, and then lastly public schoolers. Which means we need to make an attempt to provide school choice for people. And maybe that’s where the government can have a role by taking all the federal monies and agencies and shifting them to a state and local level—which is where you’re going to get, I think, much more bang for the buck.
Mike: Dr. Carson, I can hear some people wanting to know what you mean by the word “monitor”—when you say that the government should monitor education.
Dr. Carson: For instance, we have an all-voluntary military. Between the ages of 17 and 24, 71 percent of people who apply for that military are rejected—primarily for educational reasons, because they can’t pass a basic test of mathematics and communication skills. That’s what I think: looking at things like that so that we know where we are. And I think that encourages us even more to move towards the systems of education that work the best—which are the ones that are closest to home, and the ones that are controlled by the citizens rather than the government.
Mike: You’ve mentioned homeschooling, and I’m just wondering: what is your experience with homeschooling families, and what’s your general view?
Dr. Carson: I know a lot of them. A lot of my patients were homeschooled. And I’ve constantly been impressed by how well-educated they are, particularly in terms of knowing the history of the United States. So they tend to be very patriotic. And those are areas that are neglected a lot, particularly in our public schools. I don’t think they even teach civics anymore in many schools. And that’s why when you see those man-on-the-street interviews—Jesse Watters’ World and stuff—people have no clue. You’re talking about very basic stuff, [and] they have no idea what you’re talking about. And these are people who vote. So, that’s one of the reasons—just for recognizing that we only have 330 million people, and we have to compete with China with 1.4 billion, India with 1.1 billion, which means we need to develop all of our people. And therefore, we should actually look at the data, look at the evidence. The evidence shows us which students do the best. And that’s why I’m very much for a voucher program that allows school choice.
And people say, “Well, a lot of people in the inner city—they don’t really care about the kids, and their education.” That’s not true. Because you’ll notice that whenever a good charter school opens, the line is like a mile long from people trying to get their kid in there.
Mike: That’s exactly right. Homeschoolers are very concerned about the issue of parental rights—there’s a parental rights amendment that’s been going on for a number of years now. What’s your general view on parental rights?
Dr. Carson: Well, who’s more concerned about the welfare of the child than the parent is? No one. So obviously that takes precedent over governmental rights.
Now we have to be somewhat careful in the sense that if you happen to have a mentally unbalanced person who’s doing things that are clearly very detrimental. Like they say, “I have the right to tie this kid up to a tree in the hot sun and leave him there all day because I don’t like what they did.” That’s a little bit over the top. But I think we are intelligent enough to be able to figure those things out.
Mike: Many homeschoolers are especially interested in the issue of [the] government’s role in deciding vaccinations. What’s your view on that?
Dr. Carson: Well, I believe that there are some vaccinations that are absolutely critical. You know, we’ve largely wiped out polio, smallpox, things like that—because of vaccinations. To allow those things to come back would be absolutely absurd.
But it’s the number of vaccinations that I’ve been somewhat concerned with—not the concept of vaccination. And there’s some that are not absolutely critical. If you don’t work, for instance, in a medical facility, you don’t need to get all those hepatitis shots; I don’t think you do. I know some people think you do, but I don’t. And I think there’s some things that should be left to discretion, but we should always keep public safety in mind.
And I think it’s important to dispel some of the myths that exist. There’s absolutely no correlation with shots and autism. What has happened is that we’ve gotten much better at diagnosing autism and the various types of autism. And therefore if we thought eating carrots cause autism, we would say there’s an increase in autism because people are eating carrots. But it wouldn’t be because of eating carrots; it would be because we’ve gotten so much better at diagnosing.
Mike: There are a number of UN treaties that speak to the relationship between the United States and its own citizenry—like the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, and the UN disabilities treaty. These all have great sounding names. What is your view on these various treaties?
Dr. Carson: Well, the problem is that yes, on the surface, they look wonderful. The problem is they put people in this country under the jurisdiction of other people outside this country. I totally disagree with that concept. That’s the problem. We have our own laws for dealing with the disabled and with children. We don’t need the UN to tell us what to do.
Mike: Final question is: what’s your view on the Article V Convention of the States process, where the states are asking for a convention to reign in the abuse of the federal government?
Dr. Carson: Well, I’ve been advocating for that for a while. Unless we get term limits, we’re never going to get our government under control.
And the reason it wasn’t written into the Constitution is that it was such an arduous chore to go to Washington and represent people. There was little in the way of perks, and you knew that people weren’t going to want to do that long-term.
Well, that situation has changed. And therefore I think it justifies such a convention.
Mike: Thank you Dr. Carson, we really appreciate your time. Godspeed as you continue there in South Carolina.
Dr. Carson: Thank you so much, good to talk to you again.