Idaho legislator: Require ‘Atlas Shrugged’

Idaho students would have to read Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged and pass a test on it to graduate from high school under a bill introduced by Sen. John Goedde, chairman of the Idaho Senate’s Education Committee.

Goedde said he won’t push the bill, but wants to send a message to the State Board of Education, which repealed a rule requiring two online courses to graduate from high school. “It was a shot over their bow just to let them know that there’s another way to adopt high school graduation requirements,” Goedde said after the meeting.

He hasn’t read the book for 30 years, “but it certainly gives one a sense of personal responsibility,” Goedde said.

In the 1957 novel, productive citizens go on strike against heavy taxation and government regulation. When the innovators and makers disappear, society collapses. Capitalists have better sex too.

Rand’s Anthem would be an interesting choice for teenagers. It’s set in a world in which the idea of “I” has been lost. It’s a lot shorter than Atlas and I don’t think there’s much sex.

I had to memorize the Preamble of the Constitution to get out of junior high. Is there a book that all high school should be required to read?

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  1. I would suggest “The Bell Jar” by Hernando de Soto, or “The Fatal Conceit” by F. A. Hayek, but I think perhaps “The Wealth of Nations” or the Federalist Papers would be a better choice.

    • I thought of the Federalist Papers, too. If they understand them, they’ll definitely be college ready!

    • Roger Sweeny says:

      “The Bell Jar” is a semi-autobiographical novel by Sylvia Plath, about a talented young woman who spirals into madness. Plath committed suicide several years after the novel was published. Hernando de Soto, a Peruvian economist, has written “The Other Path” and “The Mystery of Capital,” arguing that poor people in poor countries suffer from a lack of clearly defined rights to the property that they possess, and that this perpetuates their poverty.

      The idea that most high students could understand “The Federalist Papers” or Adam Smith’s “Wealth of Nations” is laughable. Lots of educated people would have trouble with the language and would miss large amounts of the context and the allusions.

  2. I’d be happy with Thomas Sowell’s Basic Economics; not just for HS students, but the state and national legislatures.

  3. If they are required to read a Rand book, I’d make it “Anthem”.

  4. The message I draw from the legislator’s statement, and I’ll admit to making a couple of assumptions, is: “If you won’t agree to a bill to waste taxpayer money that will be funneled to the online class providers who provided significant contributions to my campaigns, I will reveal myself to be an ignoramus.”

    If he’s read any Rand, perhaps he should stop to ponder what she would make of his bill. Liner for a bird cage?

  5. Politicians require enough already.

  6. Mike in Texas says:

    What a shocker, he’s a Republican

    • I know. It’s like finding out politicians who want children to read “Heather Has Two Mommies” is a Democrat.


  7. If you’re over the age of 12, you should know better than to use Ayn Rand’s crap as any kind of academic setting to look at how the world should work. The Idaho legislator that sponsored this bill should be arrested for sedition and put on trial.

  8. Anthem or We the Living. The latter is as close as Rand ever came to developing believable characters, perhaps because it draws from her own experience in Soviet Russia. The one issue is that at about 460 pages, it’s rather long for a high school assignment, although short for a Rand work. In my memory Anthem seems barely more than a novella, but Amazon says it is around 250 pages, compared to 200 for The Scarlet Letter, which was definitely my most time-consuming high school assignment or 290 for The Catcher in the Rye. (For my own pleasure, I read Les Miserables and Winston Churchill’s multi-volume memoirs in Junior High, so all assigned books seemed rather short, but I know few of my classmates could read like that even in college.)

  9. twitter_Spencealot says:

    Anthem was required reading in my Ohio public high school. I think the Ayn Rand Institute had a deal cut with schools to push the books into public schools. Our class sets of Anthem also came with one or two free copies of Atlas Shrugged or The Fountainhead. My teacher gave me the free copy of Atlas Shrugged, and it’s why I read it.