CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa—Republican presidential candidate Dr. Ben Carson committed a widely reported and tweeted gaffe Thursday in Cedar Rapids when he asked elementary students at Isaac Newton Christian Academy who the “worst” fifth-grade student is in their school.
Carson seemed oblivious to the fact that kids will gleefully answer a question like that. Several immediately pointed to a crew-cut 10-year-old named Seth Blackford, who grinned in embarrassment. A number of us who were in attendance at the Carson campaign event groaned out loud on seeing the kid put in such a humiliating situation.
Carson, a famed pediatric neurosurgeon, was trying to enliven his personal story about being a lazy student when he was in fifth grade. After the speech, he met briefly with Seth and reportedly told him, “You're going to be a neurosurgeon, OK?”
But that wasn't Carson's only cringe-worthy moment at the Cedar Rapids town hall event. Indeed, moments after his “worst student” question, Carson bragged about acts he committed as a child that could have caused serious harm to other people. Again to illustrate his previously wild ways before he settled down and became the self-described smartest kid in the class, he told how he and his friends enjoyed throwing rocks at passing cars.
Then, with nearly 100 grade-school students listening from the gym bleachers, he asked if anyone in the audience has ever thrown a rock at a car. Some hands went up. If people were honest, Carson said, lots of people would have to admit they've done it. Then he grinned and described the pleasure he and his friends got from being chased by police officers who saw them throwing the rocks. He said they laughed at the cops after eluding them by nimbly jumping fences.
I admit that a friend and I once threw a rock at a passing semi-trailer truck when we were in fifth grade or so. We got caught and severely reprimanded. I now feel horrified when I think about the injuries I could have caused.