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In a symbolic move to teach "personal responsibility," an Idaho lawmaker wants every high school student in the state to read Ayn Rand's "Atlas Shrugged." Do you think this is a good idea?
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116 comments
 
As a resident, Idaho has much bigger education issues to tackle.
 
Its an excellent book that espouses personal responsibility. I agree wholeheartedly.
 
Looking at the tripe that makes in on to a normal, high school reading list, I don't see why anyone would object to this. Making it mandatory is a bit much, though, I should think. For that we might turn to better thinkers like Locke, Hobbes, or the Founders themselves. Though I should wonder if a modern high schooler would be able to comprehend their writing style. Hey, double benefit!
 
If they don't like it then tell them to explain why. If they do like it, have them supply more information supporting their position. 
 
Sounds like indoctrination. Republican or Democrate should not be allowed to force a political view. 
 
It is a good idea. Might help counter the liberal bias in the school system.
 
Spoiler: Conservatives will be for this and Liberals against it. In other news, water continues to be wet and the sun continues to be hot.
 
Shhhhhhh!  Be carefull Mrs. Malkin might have G+ tapped like she does twitter.  Ayn Rand was not completely right. Most conservatives find many things to disagree about. Libetarians and tea party want to infiltrate the Republican party cant get elected or even on the ticket any other way.
 
I think it might be a mistake. It's a giant book, to start with, and I doubt many teens have the fortitude to read a book like this. Also, having read the book myself, it's clear that the goal is to inculcate a set of Objectivist values in their children, and there are other, better ways to teach personal responsibility.

Teaching values should start much earlier than high school.

Honestly, I think this is a lousy idea and very un-Christian. Ayn Rand was a militant, unapologetic atheist whose philosophy was developed in response to the corruption of Stalinist USSR.

If your goal is to give a bunch of teenagers the entitled sense of selfishness that Ayn Rand preaches, there are better ways to cut your own throat.
 
This conservative is against it.  In addition to some of what has already been said about objectivist values and whatnot, there is some adult subject matter in this book that would be sure to throw many parents into a fit.  Personally, I would not want my kids reading this book until after high school, and after they have already learned personal responsibility (at home).    
 
"There are two novels that can change a bookish fourteen-year old's life: The Lord of the Rings and Atlas Shrugged. One is a childish fantasy that often engenders a lifelong obsession with its unbelievable heroes, leading to an emotionally stunted, socially crippled adulthood, unable to deal with the real world. The other, of course, involves orcs."
 
Atlas Shrugged is a single lesson for those who have not learned by the time they are able to comprehend the book. Rand may have been many things but she understood the principals of which our country was founded on.

It is true ethics, morals should be taught from the beginning of child's life and is ultimately the parents responsibility. It is the responsibility of the teacher to continue re-enforcement of the ethics and moral values, not to undermine they by teaching political beliefs which fall outside the parents background and Ideals. Just as journalists are supposed to be unbiased with the composition of what they report, teacher in the past held to a unbiased use of knowledge and information to teach. Today's teacher undermines and removes the authority from the parent. They teach and preach an ethic and morals left of neutral, they have politicized children from preschool through grad school.
 
+Margaret Leber I believe that +Dean Barnett was expressing his opinion through humour, and he managed to do it without putting anyone down or using foul or hurtful language.

You were probably the bully in your school too. Knock it off and grow up. If you don't want to contribute to the conversation, please be quiet whilst the adults are talking.
 
+David Sanabria We can always count on the libtrolls for condescension.  

And drivel. "Without putting anyone down"? Really. Did you actually believe that even as you wrote it?

Sadly, probably so. Funny how often, when the lefties talk about "having a conversation", what they really mean is "delivering a sermon from the lofty height of their personal superiority".

 I guess you're just too unbearably "adult" for me, son. Another lefty troll blocked. 
 
Cracked Teapots trying to brainwash our kids with their twisted beliefs.
 
Ah, obviously the call has gone out. Even to Canada.
 
The looters of the world will never.. ever... let that happen
 
You know, you have to kind of admire this... most of the urban schools outside of flyover country don't even require the kids to read at all, much less read a particular book. Obviously this must be because the Federal DoE is underfunded. 
 
Well, wished I'd read it in high school.
 
I wonder when Cracked Teapots will understand that you balance the budget and grow the economy by going after REAL budget busters like discretionary defense spending, agricorporate welfare and Medicare and Social Security payments to the rich?
 
I knew ignorant Fox "News" bigots would love the idea of using tax payer dollars and BIG GOVERNMENT to try and indoctrinate kids.
 
but BIG GOVERNMENT already DOES indoctrinate kids in the form of Communist propaganda.  
 
I have a better idea.  Why don't you just set up government run Republican Concentration Camps where you can force people to watch Fox "News" 24x7x365.  Let's cut to the chase people!
 
+G. Fahey No, they don't read them, it would sully their ideological purity. They just come here to troll, because DailyKos, MotherJones, and TPM are boring
 
Why Atlas Shrugged when The Fountainhead is so much better?

Either book is too long to use in a high school setting.  It would take weeks to digest this book for high school classes.

And, maybe parents should start teaching their kids about responsibility, work ethic, and not reaching for handouts at every turn rather than the schools.
 
Nothing says "keeping government out of our lives" like legally mandating kids read a book.
 
"Required reading" isn't exactly a new concept.
 
Yes, I think it is a great idea!
 
No. It's not really a good book and if anything it's really the opposite of personal responsibility. 
 
Mandatory, no. Extra Credit, yes.  I am a voracious reader and have been that way as long as I can remember.  As a 40 year old adult, it was an effort to read Atlas Shrugged.  I also don't believe that many teens have the context to understand the concepts she presents in her novels.  Try working for a couple years and paying taxes to fund government projects that you personally don't agree with - then it will make more sense.  Perhaps Robert Heinlein is a better author to start youth with concepts of personal responsibility.  His works are much shorter and easier to read / digest.
 
His editor Daiglish at Putnam really did not care for the ideas he was putting into young minds. My goodness, in Galileo teenagers even had guns. 
 
No, because it's a very poorly-written book with a ludicrous plot, cardboard characters, and shrill and humorless tone.
 
Better than most things they're having our children read these days. 
 
Horrible idea! Atlas Shrugged is a god awful book and Rand was a hack. This is just a piss poor attempt to indoctrinate kids into the pseudo-philosophy of Objectivism. I would rather be water boarded than read this tripe again. That would really be torture. 
 
+Vic Farrow Wow, I would totally disagree. Kids are brained washed in school to be socialist drowns. Example all those useless occupy morons that believe the world should pay for them.
Ayn Rand and personal responsibility is what kids need these days.
Obama and regressive socialists have destroyed a great country.
Rand was a thinker and a doer. Obama and socialists are takers and liars. 
 
In response to people who feel that Ayn Rand's body of work is unchristian, her atheism, though very much unapologetic never had much to do wih her social commentary. Much of what she says in her books has as much validity, and dare I say it value as Gearge Orwell's 1984 or Ray Bradbury's Farenheit 451. Her status as an atheist should certainly NOT keep her from being considered for a High School reading list.

That being said Atlas Shrugged is a huge body of work and unfortunately very likely above the reading ability or understanding of most High School youth. Unless a family encourages this type of heavy reading in thier family the point of this book will be lost on most high schoolers. I find it infinitly sad that this is the case, but it is. Atlas Shrugged would be a waste of time. Matetial by Ayn Rand is definitely not a bad idea, but there are better examples of her writing.
 
The book is a significant book that expresses a point of view that should be heard (even though I think the cliff's notes version is more to-the-point)...however, passing a law making it mandatory reading goes against the principles expressed in the book itself.
 
Atlas Shrugged would be a great book to have high school seniors read. It will help them see a point of view the founders espoused as well as what the mainstream media doesn't want them to know about. Leave it to the student to decide what to do with the knowledge, but why deny it to them as some commentators here want?
 
+Warren Tarbat I respect disagreement however, I completely reject your characterization of Occupy folks just as I reject the characterization of Tea-Party folks as ignorant hayseeds.
 The extreme right does not have a monopoly on personal responsibility and it is fallacious to claim that calling for social responsibility is tantamount to socialism. President is no more a "Socialist" than Bush (43) was a "Fascist". This is the very idiotic rhetoric that classifies folks who disagree on details as, not only wrong but evil. The "with me of agin' me" attitude is the real lack of patriotism in a pluralistic society.
 
+Vic Farrow Actually, President Obama and the current democrats practice economic fascism. Not that they are fascists themselves, but they want and are trying to run the economy according to the principals of economic fascism. 

And Obama is a socialist/Marxist. He said it himself in his books and who he considers his mentors. He believes government is better at coping with most issues than the individual is, hence we get the takeover of 1/6 of the economy with Obamacare (setup to fail so we can get a single payer system), the takeover of all student loans, the takeover and heavy handed control of the automobile industry, and the heavy regulation of the financial sector. 

As for Bush...well...he was a "compassionate conservative". I didn't like him much, but he was a hell of a lot better than our current President. 
 
I'd propose a semester off social studies working through the book Dune by Frank Herbert B-) 
 
Duh, anyone who has read and understood the point of the book Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand knows that any form of compulsion can only lead to heck -- including, as Ayn would I am certain agree, compulsory reading of her book.
 
I think everyone should read it. But there are at least 100 books on my "must read list".
 
No. Atlas Shrugged was one of the most trite books I've ever read. Second rate book by a second rate author.
 
Fox is not news, it is propaganda, and anyone that watches it (except as comedy) is legally brain dead
 
Oh yes, Idaho, the land of Mormons and White Supremacists. What difference does it make? The kids are screwed up anyway.
 
Atlas Shrugged teaches you about personal responsibility the same way Hitchhiker's Guide teaches you about space travel.
 
Talk about irony. I do not think Ayn Rand would approve.
 
lol quite right. Ayn Rand would not approve of public education even. She also believed that sex crimes were not crimes because people committing such crimes were just doing what was right, being selfish. Not sure that mixes with education of youth.
 
It amazing that mindless Fox would be hyping Godless Ayn. 
 
Absolutely not a good idea for the state to dictate a particular idealistic book in a curriculum.
 
Good idea, although it should be taught alongside Friedrich Hayek's Road to Serfdom to demonstrate an expanded view of Capitalism.
 
Good idea, but it drags on and on and on.
 
Teach the children how to think not what to think.
 
My ninth grade history teacher was economically conservative, probably the only 1 in the district. Everyone else in the district seemed to let their desire for a bigger paycheck bend their opinions.
 
This would be one of the worst books I have ever read in my fortysomething years. Moochers, dissapearing light airplanes and strange motors that make power out of thin air. How did this pompous tripe ever become a classic?

And they want to give this as mandatory reading for kids? ...no wonder kids hate going to school...
 
I'm listening to that book now. It's scary that the stuff in that book doesn't sound ridiculous 
 
Animal Farm - 1984 - Utopia were once required reading in High Schools across the nation and then suddenly they disappeared ...I'm sure it had nothing to do with the fact that they accurately described the very social engineering methods we experience today.
 
I'm all for teaching philosophy and even religion in school. It would be very valuable to give grades 11 & 12 some exposure to other belief systems and epistemologies.

I read Atlas Shrugged and Fountainhead when I was 17. They are very long reads, and honestly after about 10 pages of John Galt's speech, I skipped past the other 60 pages to get back to the story. Yes, it made an impression, and looking back I can appreciate that it was not a good one.

If you want to give teens a taste of Ayn Rand, I would suggest her book Anthem, which was actually written for younger readers. Fountainhead was definitely much more entertaining that Atlas Shrugged. Anthem can be read in about 5-6 hours.

Objectivism is an intensely selfish and egotistical philosophy, and is just as flawed as communism in that it expects a level of integrity and adherence that does not exist except in fundamentalists. Having said that, it does provide a counterargument to the collectivist ideals of utopian socialism. When taken together, a student can learn to see both sides of the the two differencing economic systems of the modern era: socialism and capitalism.

Thinking at this level is something I would expect of a college student, however, rather than a high school student. Teaching the fundamentals of economics, philosophy, and civics would be very valuable as long as it could be done without an agenda. I'm a very big fan of economics, and whilst I strongly disagree with the extremist brand of unregulated capitalism promoted by Alan Greenspan and Paul Ryan, both Rand disciples, I can certainly understand the aspirations they both profess to champion.

Human nature, however, does not follow nice or rational paths, and when left to themselves people will find ways to abuse capitalism (Bear Sterns/AIG) as well as socialism (USSR). Objectivism pretends at being a cold, steely eyed breath of practicality. In reality it is a cold, heartless, selfish, dog-eat-dog collection of moral justification for giving in to our most base nature. In the end, it is a eugenicist manifesto of Social Darwinism, and for all of that it is a deeply depressing and lonely worldview.

Class Dismissed
 
Note to self, read Atlas Shrugged. It seems everyone else has.
 
No.
Like many other books already in the curriculum, this will only teach most students to not enjoy reading.
 
Great idea.  But a need for balance is mandatory against all the atheistic crap in that book.  For the most part the book has a lot of good substance...
 
Whatever, I'm sure this is for some crazy tea party reason but the book has its moments and is kind of interesting.

The early part where they get rid of all of the distractions and just build a railroad fast followed by the decay of the railroad as it is taken over and run by the larger railroad - this same thing has happened to countless startups, MySpace and Flickr being a couple.

Basically if you look past the overly aggressive black or white anti-communist rhetoric of a woman who's family money was taken by the east block communists, there's some interesting stuff in the book.

I hope they exempt the 65 page speech at the end from this law though, it's crazy boring and really just a review of Rand's belief system for people who weren't clever enough to pick up where she was going in the 1000 prior pages.
 
Do they realize she is pro abortion and anti god? I think not.
 
+Jerry Dugan Atlas shrugged is my favorite book. It rocked my world... No I'm not a "Randian" or a "Randite" I just appreciate books that give me epiphany after epiphany. I also learned a lot from reading the Bible, but I am not a Christian.

I don't know why people take sides and then get angry when books should be about stimulating the intellect and growing as a person.

I see "Kantians" who get angry about Rand, or "Randians" getting angry about Kant as having issues... The same goes for book burners in general, what are they so worried about?
 
+John Biaggio She wasn't "anti God". She was an atheist.

Far better than some of the crap i was forced to read in English Lit in High School.
 
If they have to read Atlas Shrugged then they might as well read Hitler's Mein Kampf. Both are warped ugly rants that justify hate and antisocial behavior by trying to convince the reader they are part of special elite. Ayn Rand's world vision is just Fascism by another name. I think a close read of Atlas Shrugged would show kids how unreal her ideas were -and why she is mostly the hero of the mediocre, of people who need to blame others instead of examining their own short comings.  
 
It is a great book but I don't think this is a good idea.  Many of the points made in the book would go right over a high schooler's head and would be wasted.
 
+David Jenson just out of curiosity how does Mt Everest looking like its on its side have anything to do with evolution?
 
+brian james Fascism requires a supporting belief in totalitarianism. Somewhat along the lines of where the democratic party is headed.

The thrust of Rand's writings is that we as human beings belong to ourselves not other human beings or even governments. The work we do is our own.

You should take your lies and hateful crap somewhere else.
 
An interesting idea but not necessarily a good one. If you "have to read it" chances are that you are going to identify yourself with the "looters and moochers", on the other hand if you just read it the possibilities are going to be endless and perhaps the "John Galt" in you is going to allow you to "follow your bliss". 
Ron N
 
+Brian Barnhart. I disagree. I think reading this masterpiece in today's society to draw from will make it easier for them to see how their freedoms are taken. Now more than ever this book would open their eyes and mind.
 
It's a masterpiece for those of us who already saw it as a self-evident true, but for some "Hanks" is going to take more than eighty percent of a book to realize what the actual struggle is. It's not about politics and laws, it is about the realization of the individual and its relationship to the collective. That's what I say is an "interesting idea" but not "necessarily a good one". But I do agree with you! Along with "A hundred years of Solitude" and "the hero with a thousand faces" is one of my favorites piece of art and philosophy.
 
If anything should be required reading it should be Carl Sagan's The Demon-Haunted World and James Randi's Flim-Flam.  
 
I thought they only teach how to grow potatoes...
 
EVERY human could use more personal responsibility. 
 
Nothing says personal responsibility like forcing people to do something.
 
Sure make them read it but also make them read the Communist manifesto also. 
 
+Joel Abrams Half of all lawsuits and contract disputes is one party trying to force the other party to take responsibility.  In a world of personal responsibility how do you enforce that? Especially when your neighbor's lack of responsibility hurts you but not him. The concept responsibility is pretty elastic and very subjective. 




  
 
+James Merrill Yes students should read the Communist manifesto but ironically Communism did have it's day in sun. Communist states have risen and fell. But you know there has never been a Libertarian state or any society based on total personal responsibility. The closest  thing is the government of Haiti. There is absolutely no social welfare, everything is privatized, what ever you do it's always sink or swim because nobody in Haiti is obligated to help you. 

Trying to run a society on Ayn Rand's principals is like trying to win a war with an army of snipers. Even guerrilla army needs a structure of command and control.

Every society needs a social contract where the individual and the larger society is obligated to each other. Communism shows the pitfalls of over extending the social contract. Atlas Shrugged shows how a society based  exclusively on person is about realistic as a perpetual motion machine.
 
+Jay Carlson Sorry I missed your post. I have no hatred for Ayn Rand it's just that most people I've met that have read and enjoyed Atlas Shrugged remind me of the character Dwight Schrute from The Office.

German Fascism had a lot in common with Ayn Rand's  philosophy of objectivism. I really don't care to type out the connections and explanations but just keep in mind the Third Reich's creative class, all its talented John Galts willingly and even cheerfully designed weapons, buillt death camps and fought an aggressive war. And those German John Galts did not defect, they keep the Nazi state running right up to the end.

When Ayn Rand was sick with cancer she was still willing to collect money and benefits from Social Security and Medicare. To hide the fact she filed under her birth name Alisa Rosenbaum. I don't fault her for that because it takes a truly committed person to value your principals above your own life -that kind of courage is rare.What I find sad is her supposed friends did not pass the hat around  and share their resources to help her out -they stayed selfish to the end (maybe out of principal). 

  
 
The thrust of Rand's philosophy is that we as humans belong to ourselves, not others, not a government, and her case as an atheist not to a God. This is definitely at odds with any form of totalitarian ideology including fascism. Your narrow example in no way invalidates Rand's philosophy or successfully argues her philosophy was a form of fascism. Many of Rand's writings deal directly with the problems of totalitarianism.

I am unaware of the circumstances of Rand's dependence on SS or Medicare, I don't believe in either system either. I'd rather have that money in a 401k or insurance program. However I have paid into both for a large portion of my life so I don't see any conflict. 
 
I don't get it.  After all this effort to force Christianity into schools, Connies are now pushing a book by a Russian Pro-Abortion Atheist?
 
I can accept an atheist. Your spiritual beliefs are your business. However atheists seem to have a problem tolerating the spiritual beliefs of others.
 
+Jay Carlson      Ayn Rand certainly did. Near the end of her life in the late 1970's supposedly she often talked about the need for Objectivists to undermine and if possible stamp out religion. Ayn Rand was against all irrational expressions including art, literature and even love. In someways she was the ultimate expression of Calvinism -of course without the element of God. Ayn Rand is part of a long line of thinkers that tried to justify the excesses of an elite by claiming there was a hidden greater good in their actions -and all the rest of us should accept that until the new utopia comes.    
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