If an Idaho state senator has his way, high school students in the Potato State will have to read Ayn Rand’s “Atlas Shrugged” and pass a written exam on the conservative political novel in order to graduate.
Sen. John Goedde (R), chairman of the Idaho Senate’s Education Committee, introduced legislation earlier this week that, if passed, would require every Idaho high school student to read Rand, reported the Spokane, Wash. Spokesman-Review.
When asked why he chose “Atlas Shrugged,” Goedde responded, “That book made my son a Republican,” according to the paper.
The 1957 novel has recently been the center of much attention and controversy. A book that can be described as “equal parts philosophy, manifesto, and political satire,” “Atlas Shrugged” is considered Russian émigré Rand’s magnum opus. It promotes the philosophy of objectivism, the idea that people should pursue their own self-interest rather than the good of others. The book champions laissez-faire capitalism and rails against government taxation and regulation.
“Atlas Shrugged” today forms part of the modern conservative canon, a book embraced by the Tea Party for its anti-big government message. It’s also loved by such conservatives as Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, and Paul Ryan, who came under fire during the 2012 presidential race for once citing Ayn Rand as his inspiration for entering public service and the philosophical basis for his economic vision for America.
It’s no surprise then that Goedde’s bill has stirred a pot of contention in Idaho – and beyond.
But it turns out Goedde doesn’t plan to pursue the legislation; he introduced it to make a point. The state senator told fellow Education Committee members the bill was introduced to send a message over recent Education Committee decisions he disagreed with.
“It was a shot over the bow just to let them know that there’s another way to adopt high school graduation requirements,” he said, according to the Spokesman. “I don’t intend to schedule a hearing on it.”
Apparently Goedde was unhappy with the Idaho State Board of Education’s decision to repeal a rule requiring two online courses to graduate from high school, as well as its decision to retreat from another planned rule on principal evaluations.
An odd way to send a message, we think. Books, it turns out, are a potent weapon in state education politics.
Husna Haq is a Monitor correspondent.