Let’s Get the Ben Carson Story Right

For indispensable reporting on the coronavirus crisis, the election, and more, subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter.


I just finished a Twitter conversation about Ben Carson’s Yale psychology test story, and I want to pass along a point that I think too many people don’t get. The core of Carson’s story isn’t really about how he endured the hoax test longer than anyone else. It’s about how he was more honest than the others. Here’s the relevant section of Gifted Hands:

As I stared at the questions, I couldn’t believe them either. They were incredibly difficult, if not impossible.

….“Forget it,” I heard one girl say to another. “Let’s go back and study this. We can say we didn’t read the notice.”…. Immediately three others packed away their papers….Soon half the class was gone, and the exodus continued.

….Within half an hour from the time the examination began, I was the only student left in the room. Like the others, I was tempted to walk out, but I had read the notice, and I couldn’t lie and say I hadn’t. All the time I wrote my answers, I prayed for God to help me figure what to put down. I paid no more attention to departing footsteps.

Suddenly the door of the classroom opened noisily….”What’s going on?” I asked. “A hoax,” the teacher said. “We wanted to see who was the most honest student in the class.” She smiled again. “And that’s you.”

But why would the hoaxsters tell him he was the most honest person in the class? To them, it was just a prank. The bit about honesty derives solely from Carson hearing the conversation behind him. This is, however, the core of his story—and no matter what else we find out, it’s almost certainly been invented out of whole cloth.

Which is, of course, pretty ironic.

DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXIST...

without free and fair elections, a vigorous free press, and engaged citizens to reclaim power from those who abuse it.

In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily crazy—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America will move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXIST...

without free and fair elections, a vigorous free press, and engaged citizens to reclaim power from those who abuse it.

In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily crazy—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America will move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate