Bill introduced in Idaho that makes reading 'Atlas Shrugged' a requirement for graduation

Reading Ayn Rand's "Atlas Shrugged" may become a requirement for high school graduation in Idaho if Coeur d'Alene Senator John Goedde, chairman of the Idaho Senate's Education Committee, decides to pursue the matter.

Goedde introduced a bill with the requirement but doesn't appear serious about pushing it:

When Sen. Bob Nonini, R-Coeur d'Alene, asked Goedde why he chose that particular book, Goedde said to laughter, "That book made my son a Republican."

Goedde said he doesn't plan to press forward with the bill, but it was formally introduced in his committee Tuesday on a voice vote. He said he was sending a message to the State Board of Education, because he's unhappy with its recent move to repeal a rule requiring two online courses to graduate from high school, and with its decision to back off on another planned rule regarding principal evaluations.

"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. "I don't intend to schedule a hearing on it."

The 1957 novel has been embraced by libertarians and the tea party movement, in part for its opposition to "statism" and embrace of capitalism, as Rand expressed her philosophy of "objectivism," focusing on "the morality of rational self-interest." In recent years, the novel has been touted by conservative commentators including Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck.

"When I read Atlas Shrugged, and it's been probably 30 years since I read it, but it certainly gives one a sense of personal responsibility," Goedde said.

Sen. Cherie Buckner-Webb, D-Boise, questioned the choice of the book for a graduation requirement. "We have a wide variety of children who will be trying to graduate and reading and grasping some of these things, and their cultural context may be different," she said.

Goedde responded, "I don't plan on moving this forward - it was a statement."

To put it nicely, this is a crock. As an allegorical tale, "Atlas Shrugged" has its place in literature. But its more than 1,000 pages of turgid prose makes it nearly unreadable - even if you agree with the concepts laid out in the book. John Galt can be a compelling figure but the characters are secondary to the philosophy Rand is trying to teach. It is poor literature and undeserving of being a requirement for graduation.

Certainly, a case can be made that there is not enough literature in high school curricula that illuminates the conservative point of view. But making Rand's treatise on capitalism a requirement for graduation is not a good way to address that problem.

Good thing the state senator isn't serious about advancing his bill.

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