Tuesday, May 6, 2008

You can't have AYN RAND without YAs?

So, this morning there was a piece on NPR about Ayn Rand studies in college. The piece itself was interesting, but what really stayed with me as I was riding in was the nagging question of why is Ayn Rand so persuasive for teenagers and undergrads? (I get why she's popular with CEOs, no problem.)

For much of high school, I self-identified as an objectivist and might have called her my favorite author. I remember breathlessly reading the infamous John Galt speech in Atlas Shrugged on a bus ride for a museum filed trip (really, who reads when you've got three unstructured hours on a bus with your friends?). I remember fervently arguing objectivist viewpoints in social studies classes.

Anyway, I don't think I was particularly weird in role as an Ayn Rand fanboy. I wasn't alone. The Ayn Rand Institute is pretty aggressive about promoting the books in schools (posters, contest, schwag for teachers, etc.). An English teacher actually gave me a copy of Anthem and said I should do the contest. When I got to college, there was an objectivist club and I wasn't the only freshman interested. (My own obsession didn't survive first term, however, and it has so far never returned.)

So, what's the appeal? Why does her way of presenting capitalism and self-interest pack such a wallop for so many young adults? Or am I imagining this?

(For what it's worth, I'm not suggesting that adolescent objectivism is necessarily a bad thing. So long as it's a temporary thing.)

7 comments:

Brian said...

There are days I think you can't possibly get any weirder.

This is not one of them.

Anne Spollen said...

I have to first process the image of a high school kid reading-on-the-bus-during-a-school-trip before I can think about anything else in this post...

carriejones said...

Em would be sitting on the bus next to you reading, too, but not Ayn Rand. Never Ayn Rand.

A.S. King said...

I only found Ayn Rand in my 30s. I wish I'd have found her sooner. But not on the bus. (Buses have windows to look out of and see stuff.)

literaticat said...

Maybe because it is an essentially selfish philosophy that is very black-and-white, and she has a rather hyperbolic style. And most teens (and facists) think that way.

(And because the books have sexy stuff in them.)

I liked Ayn for about a minute and a half, too. Then somehow I became a fervent anti-Randian and I'd have huge arguments with school chums about the books over lunch. (What a joy we must have been to hang out with!)

robert574 said...

I discovered Ayn Rand as a teenager while waiting for orders into a war. Now at 61, I must still be an adolescent because I still think she's the greatest thinker in history.

Anne Spollen said...

Wait - now I'm up to the objectivist club. A club? What did they do?