BOISE — The chairman of the Idaho Senate’s Education Committee, Sen. John Goedde of Coeur d’Alene, introduced legislation Tuesday to require every Idaho high-school student to read Ayn Rand’s “Atlas Shrugged” and pass a test on it to graduate from high school.
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.”
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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.”