Gideons for the Gifted (and Greedy?) Giving Out Ayn Rand at School

20 09 2007

I thought I knew all about how Big School affects (not just reflects) our culture and society, but darned if I don’t learn something new every day –never mind military recruiters, prayer oil smeared under desks before the big test, An Inconvenient Truth and It Takes a Village as competing ideology infringing on academics, how about this?

Almost three times as many copies of Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged are offered free to Advanced Placement classes each year in standardized, publicly supported school programs, as are purchased by individuals in real-world capitalist bookshops!

Every year, 400,000 copies of Rand’s novels are offered free to Advanced Placement high school programs. They are paid for by the Ayn Rand Institute, whose director, Yaron Brook, said the mission was “to keep Rand alive.”

Last year, bookstores sold 150,000 copies of the book.

So this how-to-live handbook by a revered Russian immigrant is perpetuating its ideology directly and primarily through our high schools, sponsored by a foundation of True Believers who make no bones about their “reason” for doing it this way: whatever works to get us what we want is good, because it’s good to get what we want!

Let’s apply some of Rand’s vaunted “reason” to this reality. Getting what you want and believe in is great, but can you eat your philosophy and have it too? When what you want and believe in is respect and self-determination for each individual, can you possibly achieve it by seducing conscripted masses, privileging your view over others and stacking the intellectual deck against reason?

At 17, I was in a public university dorm learning how to live on my own for the first time, and I discovered Atlas Shrugged on my own, bought it myself, read it like the novel it is and explored its layers of meaning on my own, not as required reading for a grade or credit. I experienced it, embraced it for a time, kept learning and moved past it, eventually integrating it with other power of story into my own larger understanding of how to live my life, and why.

I’ve read and absorbed other bibles and fictionalized systems of belief the same unschooled way. Looking back, probably Robert Pirsig’s “Lila: An Inquiry Into Morals” did the most for me. (Does Pirsig need or want a Rand-like interest group pushing his philosophy on smart schoolkids as an academic essential, I wonder?)

The main goal of this book is to develop a complete metaphysical system based on the idea of Quality . . .
Another goal of this book is to critique the field of Anthropology.

[Critique shoved-down-the-throat anthropology? I’ve wanted to do that myself lately! Arrogant, sly, politicized science surely has no better “quality” than arrogant, sly, politicized religion. Let’s don’t value either one as “objective” or suitable for our public school curriculum.]

“Far from being amoral and coldly logical, science actually generates values. These include intellectual humility, an unusually acute regard for honesty, respect for the revolutionary and the apparent crank, and stress on the importance of co-operation.
These are not optional extras for the scientist; they arise directly out of the pursuit of science. The degree to which a scientist lives by them will be reflected in the health of the scientific community and in an individuals scientist’s long-term success in his trade.

Even the most inveterate liar must, if he is to succeed in science cultivate a deep respect for the truth when he is about his work.”

(Bernard Dixon, “What is Science for?” 1973, rep.1975, p.56)

Oh well, at least Advanced Placement science, beleaguered by politics and religion as it is, isn’t teaching Christian creationism from free bibles yet — is it?

Oh, god (pun intended) better look into that . . .my own understanding of enlightened self-interest commands it. . .

“No high school physics class begins with the statement ‘All the world is an illusion’ …talking mysticism in a scientific community is like talking Judaism in Damascus. They may listen to you but it goes completely against the grain of their education.”

(letter from Robert Pirsig to Anthony McWatt, March 29th, 1997)

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2 responses

20 09 2007
Rolfe Schmidt

That is funny. Somehow I think that Ayn Rand’s books are more powerful if they are forbidden. If ‘the system’ gives you a copy of Atlas Shrugged and approves of it, then they must not be to worried that you are Atlas. But if you find the books yourself, you have this great inspiration to shrug.

I’ll have to check out Pirsig.

Now what could you have against anthropologists? Is it just that they’ve discovered that races are complex but homeschoolers are simple? Surely you must yield to their careful science!

30 12 2007
The Story of Homeschool Truth: Time We Learned Our Lesson? « Cocking A Snook!

[…] as is Ayn Rand’s Objectivism? It’s an oxymoron I know, but any One Story including her Worship of the Individual, is just another cult “revival” that defines and dismisses th…, except ourselves and a precious few we may personally esteem as important characters. The rest of […]

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