No, Atlas Shrugged probably won't be required reading in Idaho

An Idaho Republican stokes controversy by introducing a bill that would force high school students to read Ayn Rand's 1,100-page love letter to capitalism

Not required reading.
(Image credit: CC BY: Elvert Barnes)

Should high school students be spending their spring break in Galt's Gulch? John Goedde, a Republican state senator from Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, certainly thinks so. He recently raised some eyebrows by introducing a bill that would require all high school students to read Ayn Rand's libertarian tome Atlas Shrugged — and pass a test on it before they graduate. According to The Spokesman-Review, when asked why he chose the book, Goedde replied, "That book made my son a Republican."

Is this the end of Dickensian tales of poverty and social injustice being read in our classrooms? Will America's students instead be taught an objectivist philosophy of rational self-interest? No, probably not.

To the chagrin of fiscal conservatives and the relief of concerned liberals, there is very little chance of this bill passing. First of all, Goedde himself says that passing the bill isn't the point. He introduced it because he was angry over the Idaho State Board of Education's recent decision to repeal a rule requiring students to take two online courses in order to graduate. "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. "I don't intend to schedule a hearing on it."

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That's probably to Goedde's benefit. Because as the Washington Monthly's Ed Kilgore points out, Rand was an ardent atheist — not exactly an endearing trait among today's conservatives.

"Faith is a short-circuit destroying the mind" is probably not a motto Goedde's going to put on his bumper stickers next time he runs for re-election. But if you know any God-fearing conservative folk in Coeur d'Alene, be sure to share with them the news their senator thinks that's an important lesson for their kids. [Washington Monthly]

Another potential issue: Many social conservatives would surely object to having high schoolers read and discuss the book's frank and often controversial depictions of sex, which, as Amanda Hess pointed out a few years ago in the Washington City Paper, see heroine Dagny Taggart submit to several "violent sexual conquests."

And Goedde's whole push is hypocritical anyway, says Wonkette:

So if the board doesn't keep an arbitrary graduation rule that was widely opposed by voters, the legislature can respond by passing arbitrary graduation requirements of its own. That's a heck of a good message, and an excellent lesson to students about how state government really works. [Wonkette]

Perhaps Idaho students should just be glad they don't have to watch the universally panned Atlas Shrugged movie.

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Keith Wagstaff is a staff writer at covering politics and current events. He has previously written for such publications as TIME, Details, VICE, and the Village Voice.