If I had one wish for secondary teachers it’s that they would stop confusing Ayn Rand with someone who was a good writer/thinker. I am not suggesting stop teaching her works, but for the love of all that is wise and smart do so with heavy-duty context and background, and flash forward to the damage her teachings have created in our nation.
It is painful to see teachers continue to promote her works as worthy of anything but debate and discussion.
We need to talk about this:
It goes like this. American morality says that what’s good for everyone is acting aggressively in our own self-interest.Bang! Collapse. History and human nature say exactly the opposite is true: what’s best for us is doing good for others. Don’t believe me? Very good. I’ll make my case, and you be the judge.
Right now the Ayn Rand teachers have clicked off or defensive.
So while much of what is now the rich world was learning the great lesson of history, and people were investing in one another — the roots of Germany’s public healthcare system, for example, date back to the 1890s, as does the French pension system — America, instead, developed an odd, backwards, perverse, set of moral ideas. Today we call them “self-reliance” and “individual responsibility” and so on. But they are still, at heart, the broken, ruinous morality of the slave society — in which I am indifferent to the suffering of others. They’ve failed catastrophically — as we’ve discussed — because they were bound to.
(And this is why I lose friends. I’m too opinionated, too blunt. But with friends like Ayn Rand…)
There must be a hundred other authors to choose from instead of Rand. Every white supremacist, libertarian, tea-party, Breitbart boy has a copy of her novels, or read them in high school and become emotionally stunted by her works, and never grew up or out of them.
Yes, it is good and wise to teach each other and help one another take care of our own hearts? Ironically, that is not the final message of Rand–it’s an excommunication of one’s bonds and supports, and I believe that view of isolating oneself further in one’s youth is dangerous and riddled with pathology.
So, my teaching colleagues: please think about what role you’re playing when you defend Ayn Rand’s work. Is there no other book choice that can teach about self-actualizing and societal bonds/care? Who are we, then?
In fact, the great lesson of human history, as I stress these days, is precisely the opposite — the human good is maximized by shared interest, not self interest. Where did freedom, liberty, happiness, and prosperity really come from? Not from self-interest — from people investing in one another. Once upon a time, society was kings preying on nobles who preyed on peasants — and in this mode of social organization, no collective action was possible at all — in fact the point of it was to prevent it: to stop the peasants from rising against the nobles, the nobles against the king, and so on.
For further research: