Atlas Shrugged -- For Adults Only

Posted by starlisa 9 years, 5 months ago to Books
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The first thing I read by Rand was Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal.

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THIS ARTICLE REPURPOSED FROM: http://lamrot-hakol.blogspot.com/2012/10...

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The other day, I was talking to my partner about Atlas Shrugged at the dinner table, and my 12 year old daughter asked what it was. I told her it's a book by Ayn Rand, and that she can't read it until she's 21.

My partner stared at me and asked why. After all, I'm an Objectivist. I think Rand's philosophy is incredibly important. So why would I bar my daughter from reading it until she's an adult?

I've felt this way for at least a decade, but given the President's comments about Ayn Rand's books being something you'd pick up as a 17-18 year old feeling misunderstood, and then get rid of once you realized that thinking only about yourself wasn't enough, I thought it would be worthwhile to explain why kids shouldn't read Atlas Shrugged.

The thing is, Obama is right. In a way. Let me explain that.

I didn't read Atlas Shrugged until I was 33 years old. In fact, other than Anthem, which I may have read in passing in high school, I never read anything of Rand's until I was 32, and I started with her essays. Maybe I'll post about how and why I got into those at a later date. But as someone who didn't get into Rand's philosophy as a kid, it took me a while to realize that for the vast majority of people, reading it as a teenager is almost inevitably going to create the opposite effect that Rand had in mind.

There's a common misconception that Objectivism is about being selfish and grasping and greedy. It's an understandable misunderstanding. After all, Rand wrote a book of essays called The Virtue of Selfishness. She spoke against altruism and in favor of selfishness. The thing is, though, that in Rand's writing, those are "terms of art". A term of art, or jargon, is a word that's used a specific way in a specific field, regardless of how it's used colloquially. In politics, to "depose" means to remove a leader. In law, to "depose" means to have someone give a deposition. In medicine, an "ugly" infection is one that doesn't respond well to antibiotics.

We're all familiar with groups "reclaiming" perogative words. "Queer" was an insult when I was growing up, and it still is for a lot of people. Yet to the younger generation of GLBT teens, "queer" is simply how they identify. Rand used the term "selfish" to mean acting to further ones long term and global well being, given the understanding that we are not alone in the world, and that what I do to others can be done to me as well. There is no other way to describe that in a single world, so far as I'm aware, than selfishness. Or if we allow a modifier, "rational selfishness".

But Rand failed. She failed to communicate this in a way that would be clear enough to get past the negative connotations of selfishness as meaning a blind, grasping devotion to ones short term desires, paying no attention to the world around us. Even expanding the term to "rational selfishness" didn't work, because people understood "rational" to mean "cold and unemotional" and concluded that "rational selfishness" meant cold, hard, unemotional, uncaring selfishness. Like a robot that lacks all empathy.

But adolescents are a different story. Adolescence is a time when we are detaching ourselves from our role as dependent children, and learning to stand on our own, personally empowered. When I was 17, I remember one evening during an argument with my father, exclaiming, "You're a person, and I'm a person. Why should you have any more right to decide than I do!" And I was absolutely convinced of my righteousness. Two years later, when my younger brother was 17, I heard him say virtually the exact same thing. I looked at my father and said, "I'm so sorry, Dad. And I wish there was some way I could explain it to him." But I knew there wasn't. You can't explain that to an adolescent. They have to learn to grow up and realize that the world doesn't revolve around them.

Which is one of the reasons why a lot of adolescents love Atlas Shrugged. They miss the bigger picture, and only pick up on the message that they shouldn't have to sacrifice themselves for others. Which is a good message, but they conflate it with their irrational selfishness. Their self-centered, almost solipsistic view of the world. And when they do grow up, as most of them do, they jettison Objectivism, thinking that it's part and parcel of the adolescent mindset they no longer need.

And that's why Obama said what he did. It's absolutely true that 17 and 18 year olds who are feeling misunderstood, and whose self is feeling threatened would pick up Atlas Shrugged and see it as a vindication of what they're feeling. And it's absolutely true that someone like that reading the book would, in the vast majority of cases, throw it away once they grow up and realize that we're all in this together, so to speak.

And that's why I won't let my daughter read the book. Because it takes a certain amount of maturity to understand that the kind of altruism that says doing for others is always more moral than doing for oneself is evil and anti-human, but that benevolence and empathy are vitally important virtues. The vice of altruism always leads to bad results in the long run, even if it may seem beneficial in the short term. Because giving requires a recipient. And if receiving is a bad thing, there's always going to be someone bad and wretched. More than that, you're always going to need poor people, because without them, you can never be virtuous. It's an ugly world that raises altruism up as the highest virtue.

Perhaps we need to find another term to reflect what Rand called "selfishness". The battle to reclaim that word was lost before it even started. All it does now is feed into the ignorance of the left.
SOURCE URL: http://lamrot-hakol.blogspot.com/2012/10/atlas-shrugged-for-adults-only.html

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  • Posted by khalling 9 years, 5 months ago
    My daughter chose AS to read for a senior paper in HS. She was not a big reader at the time (17), which always shocked me, that I would have a child not born with the "instinct" to devour every book in sight. and our house was full to the rafters with them. This changed for her later, and I think, in part, it was due to (your glasses analogy is great) putting on her own pair of glasses instead of being assigned to put on a pair of glasses. She is a producer's assistant for ASIII, and because many assignments she's given are in assisting producers on the movie with research, among other duties, by necessity her nose is in Part III of AS all the time. So she re-read AS for the second time within the last several months. She visited me recently, and we have had some great conversations about the book. She is now 24. She realizes what she missed the first time around and muses what else she's "missing." My husband and I were on a vacation of sorts 2 years ago and re-read the book aloud to one another every evening . We also did some research on how many times invention was discussed in AS> Everytime one re-reads the book, there's something new to discover.
    Productive New Year to you and your family, star.
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  • Posted by LetsShrug 9 years, 5 months ago
    Wow...this post took a twist...the haywireness has me laughing, but what I want to say is this. I WISH I had read AS when I was in High School. Even if I didn't fully absorb it at that age it would have come in handy to be able to recognize the truth behind the behaviors of others...that's a tough slog when you have no tools and keep thinking "something seems funky here, but no one else seems to be noticing". If nothing else, reading AS as a teen should plant a seed that will hopefully be revisited once life smacks 'em in the face good and hard.
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  • Posted by mbpost 9 years, 4 months ago
    I read both Atlas and Fountainhead at age 12 and fell in love with both books as works of art and as proponents of a life philosophy that resonated with me. I would have found them eventually, but finding them early helped me create my viewpoint on the world early.

    I think the best age of exposure depends upon the individual. As parent, you get to make that decision. But if any parent can fill in the "backstory" or flesh out Rand's intentions, it would surely be you. What a great opportunity for you and your daughter to share that discovery.

    I agree that Rand's ideas are sometimes misused and misinterpreted. But that has been done by adults, too.
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  • Posted by $ AJAshinoff 9 years, 5 months ago
    I read Atlas Shrugged around June 2003 as my first and most successful IT business was in the final stages of its death throes. I was pointed to Atlas Shrugged by someone in Yahoo Chat who asked the mysterious question "Who is John Galt" when he was making his point about how Democracy and Capitalism was sophomoric and obsolete. He joked that Rand was fine in a college environment and challenged me to reveal who John Galt was and how he applied to the real world. I, at that time could not. As with Uncle Toms Cabin, I read AS out of a desire to understand what the commotion was all about - for good or for bad. Of course I never bumped into that guy to explain what I discovered.

    The question "Who is John Galt" can only be answered "You are and I am." Its a selfish question whose answer is grounded in self and is something everyone can intimately understand - if their honest with themselves.

    I wish I read AS prior to 1998 when I started my business. The validation of what I already knew, as a conservative, and the refinement and application of those tenants surely would have saved my company.

    When should AS be Read? High School - Junior or Senior year. College - Freshman year. Also, it should be read by anyone daring to venture out on their own to start a business.
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  • Posted by richrobinson 9 years, 5 months ago
    I spoke to a gentleman one day who told me he read AS in high school. He liked it but didn't really understand it. He read it in college and understood it but wasn't sure about the real world applications. After entering the workforce he read it again and it all made sense. I would introduce anyone to AS. It will change their lives when they are ready.
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    • Posted by $ Susanne 9 years, 5 months ago
      Strangely, AS was supposed to be assigned reading for IIRC my junior year, but it was removed from the list and we were told *not* to read it. Something about subversive ideas and not suitable for "children". Strangely, it was replaced by To Kill a Mockingbird... which, while it was a good novel, I truly believe I would have enjoyed AS much more back then - and it would have had a much more profound positive impact in my life.
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  • Posted by Vinay 9 years, 5 months ago
    I read my mother's copy of Atlas Shrugged when I was 14. Cover to cover, it took me a month, a week or more on Galt's speech alone. It was not hard to understand. I was the only one in my high school who had read it. The Fountainhead's twisted personalities (Gail Wynand, Dominique, Ellsworth T) are harder to understand. I truly wish I had waited till I was 18. It's fine to read Rand's essays at a very young age, and even We the Living and The F, but AS particularly surreptitiously misleads the very young. At least it did so for me. The role models are all industrialists, physicists, and so on. Ayn Rand looks down upon accountants, policemen, firemen, movie producers, lawyers, economists, psychologists, even doctors & nurses. I know she doesn't literally. But AS celebrates a class that deserves credit and has never gotten it. Therein lies the problem. By the way, we use rational self-interest these days, but even that misleads. We ought to be simply using rationality as a virtue. The virtue of rationality. That is much harder to argue with.
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    • Posted by Lucky 9 years, 4 months ago
      Hi Vinay- I like your story and comments but I do have a different take.
      I recall in AS, engineers are prominent among the role models as well as entrepreneurs. When I read again I will look out for who gets looked down on. Yes it could be that medics were dealt a poor hand but as for economists and psychologists.. (I hope few here).
      Ayn Rand respected, perhaps even revered, the working man who took pride in his skill. On page 2 of my copy of AS she describes a bus expertly steered, there is no other function for this episode except to express respect for the driver. Again, consider the recruitment for the train driver of the first John Galt train, all the drivers are very sympathetically drawn, the union leader tho' is a clear villain.
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      • Posted by Vinay 9 years, 4 months ago
        It speaks volumes that there is an absence of doctors, economists, psychologists, lawyers. Doctors she admired in her non-fictional work. There is no express disdain, just a subtle, subliminal, even an unplanned message.
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        • Posted by $ MikeMarotta 9 years, 4 months ago
          You seem not to know the historical context of Atlas Shrugged. Also, if you re-read it more closely, you will see that your generalization is unsubstantiated.

          When Rand wrote "Atlas Shrugged" psychology was still caught between Freud and Skinner. The "Human Potential" movement of Maslow, gestalt, and all that was just beginning. And it is also fraught with its own errors. I pointed out in another thread that Noam Chomsky totally demolished Skinner, twice. Chomsky, however, was not someone whom Rand would have embraced and he was not a psychologist, but a linguist. Would you fault the book for having no linguists? (Actually, there is an oblique reference. Dagny asks a man who looks like a truck driver if he was a professor of comparative philology. He said, "No, ma'am I was a truck driver...") Nathaniel Branden had only finished his doctorate and had not started to practice. No consistent school of rational psychology existed. So, Rand would not have had any psychologists of merit in the book, only "morale conditioners" of the behaviorist clique.

          Atlas has a doctor in the Gulch. Dr. Hendricks treats Dagny first at the crash site and then later for a check-up. He has developed a portable x-ray machine from which the outside world will not benefit.

          The Gulch has a professor of economics who could not get a job because he taught that you cannot consume more than you produce.

          The lawyer in "Atlas" is Judge Narragansett.

          Rearden's accountant is praised for his ability to squeeze a nickel.

          More to the point, Rand explained in "The Romantic Manifesto" why such people as she did write about are suitable for fiction that "everyone" can identify with.

          I also underscore Lucky's comment about the bus driver. After her revelation speech on the radio, Dagny gets a deep "thank you" from a taxicab driver. Scenes such as those are all through "Atlas Shrugged."
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          • Posted by Vinay 9 years, 4 months ago
            Rand could not have anticipated everything that could follow from reading AS. I don't blame her. There is no character that everyone can identify with. That's NOT the issue. She herself was a philosopher-novelist, not an inventor or even an engineer. She sung the ode that needed to be sung. But AS has unanticipated after-effects on very young (under 18) people. It does so BECAUSE it is an outstanding piece of work. In inadvertently slights those that are not the primary heroes like Francisco, Dagny, Hank R, and John Galt. Everyone else is a cameo actor. Ayn was under no obligation to create role models for everyone. She didn't do so.
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  • Posted by Rex_Little 9 years, 5 months ago
    My father first recommended I read Rand's books, even though he was a welfare statist. I was basically a libertarian (though I didn't have the label), and he knew what would resonate with me.

    The real credit for getting me started (at age 22), though, has to go to Richard Nixon. When he put in wage and price controls I was outraged, and got into political arguments with everyone I met. Losing most of those taught me that I needed more intellectual ammunition, which led to reading Rand.
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  • Posted by peterchunt 9 years, 5 months ago
    I first read AS while in University taking Engineering. I was not yet 21, but had a philosophy that seemed at odds with everything I had read until AS. AS put my philosophy into clarity in words that I was unable to do in anywhere close to AR’s words. I never misunderstood the use of “selfish” but realized that few others understood the meaning that AR was using it in, which meant I would have to define it for them when I used that word. I have followed Objectivism ever since, and can say it brought me in from the wilderness. I married a lovely lady who when we were dating, we would discuss philosophy, and realized we both had similar views. After 42 years we still are adhering to the philosophy. Of course we are meeting more folks who share the philosophy of AR.
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  • Posted by kpooresn 9 years, 5 months ago
    I first read AS when I was 17. Thought it could never happen here. second time I was about 35.. I got suspicious then. Third time about 4 years ago and we were in the midst of it. I am now 75 and scared to death at what's happening in our wonderful country.
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  • Posted by $ Temlakos 9 years, 5 months ago
    I discovered Ayn Rand's work when I was twenty and a junior at college--Yale College, actually. I found "Anthem" in some hole-in-the-wall bookstore, in the sci-fi shelf. I read it in two evenings.

    After that I went to what was then still celled the Yale Cooperative Store (now known as the Yale University Bookstore) and bought every book by Rand they had available. I still have those titles. though AS is so thick I've now split it in two from reading and rereading it.

    One reason why AS should be for adults only is Rand's treatment of sex. One *really* has to be mature to understand why Dagny Taggart and Henry Rearden did what they did.

    But the author of that article missed the point: Obama's objection to AS is that it is subversive of the moral order of which he is the latest champion.

    Remember, everyone: our fellow travelers elected Mister Thompson as President. If I were casting AS, I would cast an Obama lookalike, not a Nixon lookalike, as Mister Thompson. And for reasons that, I'm sure, everyone reading this can appreciate.
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  • Posted by khalling 9 years, 5 months ago
    excellent post star. I enjoy your posts. Consider listing your blog with Euda's post on blogs in the gulch.

    I am not sure I agree. But I take your points. If I had read AS when I began college, I think my experience IN college would have played out differently in some crucial ways. As it was, I read The Fountainhead (first) at the end of my first 4 years in college, and I changed the direction of my life significantly. People always say (including me): "AS changed my life." hehe. only you can change your life. Frankly, I think most people who say they picked up AS when they were young and refuted it as they "grew up" understanding the world-either did not really read the book-perhaps skimmed-or read it in the context of someone telling them to read it because that Rand b***h and corporate greed ruined our world!
    Of those I know who read the book later- in their
    30-40s, most either are validating what they already knew and just needed the Objectivist Philosophy laid out, or they refute it based on their own inherent biases towards "I own Myself."
    I'm sure there are many examples to the contrary-but 17-18 maybe even 16, in my opinion, is a great time to pick up an Ayn Rand novel if you are already a reader. How else do you have the knowledge to refute the completely false claims so many make about the philosophy and that novel in particular. How else to say-hey, that's not what happens in the book or that's not what JG said and discern the legitimacy of the detractors(9-10 college professors for ex)-if they're wrong about THAT-what else are they wrong about?
    anyway, you banned the book until your daughter is a certain age. she's sure to sneak read it now....:)
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    • Posted by 9 years, 5 months ago
      Heh. Believe it or not, when I tell her stuff like that, she takes it seriously. She actually trusts me, which is probably an odd relationship for a 13 year old to have with a parent, but go figure.

      Maybe a younger age would be okay, if the kid is particularly mature.

      When I picked up Capitalism, I was actually working on an economic plan for a group I was part of at the time. Truth be told, I didn't have any principles prior to that other than pragmatism. I'd always felt there should be some, but I never saw any evidence.

      My father used to tell me when I was growing up that, "You can do anything you want, so long as you don't hurt anyone", which was as close as I came. But I hadn't thought that through to the end, so it sort of lived in a vacuum.

      When I read Capitalism, it really did change my life, in much the way that putting on glasses for the first time changed my vision. I was absolutely horrified at what I'd been building in that economic plan (I still am), and I did an awful lot of reevaluating things in a pretty short time. It turned my life upside down in no small measure.

      I went looking for everything I could find of Rand's. I was living in Israel, so finding books in English wasn't all that simple, and there was no Amazon.com. It took me a few months to find Atlas. By that time, I'd already read Fountainhead and joined alt.philosophy.objectivism (before it turned into a spam sewer).

      Can you tell me more about Euda's post on blogs?
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  • Posted by amagi 9 years, 4 months ago
    What a wonderful walk down memory lane with the many tales of how all of you discovered Rand. Sorry to be late, but I picked up The Fountainhead in Norwegian translation (two volumes) when I was 17 (1958). It was different from anything I had ever read so I devoured it and
    searched for more. Found Atlas Shrugged (3 volumes) in Danish translation shortly thereafter.
    Fast forward; Attended NBI in New York in 65 and 66. Ayn Rand autographed my American copy of Atlas and answered a couple of modest questions. She was very graceful about it too.
    I had always been reading, searching for I did not know what. Those who search, no matter what age, will be ready when they find her writings.
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    • Posted by joanaugust 9 years, 4 months ago
      I attended NBI also; was so thankful for Branden's readings of Ayn Rand's Short stories; I have some phonograph records, a signed Atlas Shrugged 25th anniversary (?), and a signed Romantic Manifesto.
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      • Posted by amagi 9 years, 4 months ago
        Wonderful - and the Romantic
        Manifesto too ! I am just re-
        reading The New Left- The Anti-
        Industrial Revolution. Here we
        go again; the Berkley crowd
        have been substituted by OWS.
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    • Posted by khalling 9 years, 4 months ago
      walter donway (wdonway) also has an early edition that ayn rand signed for him in NY. How wonderful. I would love to see a Norwegian translation of a great line out of The Fountainhead.
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      • Posted by amagi 9 years, 4 months ago
        If the 'great line' appears in volume II, perhaps I can help. II starts with Gail Wynand holding a gun to his temple. Volume I was lost; someone may have borrowed it and never returned it. Later editions still sells on the net by Haugenbok.no. I see the paperback is sold out, but more copies are expected. Still moving !
        The book was translated by journalist Johan
        Hambro who lived in the U.S. from 1939 to 82 and the translation was done in 1943, but the book came out in 1949, not so strange as Norway was in war till May 8, 1945, and all businesses, if not devastated and closed, was
        in bad shape.
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  • Posted by NickyBics 9 years, 4 months ago
    When I was 10 my dad came home in a foul mood. He had been introduced to the works of AR when we had lived in Canada for 6 years a few years earlier. Now he was living in a Britain in which 10289-like laws had seen the lights of industry go out for 2 days every week and the local evening paper's headline warn us of a baker's strike the following day that would see us having to queue for our bread in the morning. I remember well him shouting at the paper "what would they do if I went on strike?"! Now, I remember it with fondness but then I was frightened. My father usually came home from work in a bad mood but seldom do I remember him in such a foul mood and seldom was I so frightened to even look at him.

    When he calmed down he took me for a walk during which he introduced me to Ayn Rand and to those that use altruism to enslave the people. On that fateful day I was taught to be a Capitalist and on every single day of the near 40 years that have passed since, I have questioned whether it's right to be a Capitalist. At first, those questions were directed at my father. He basically explained AR's work to me in a way that a pre-teen could understand. Then I started reading AR for myself. I read We The Living when I was 14, The Fountainhead when I was 15 and AS when I was 16. Even then though I realised that I probably only understood 10-20% of the book. In the next two years I read AR's non-fictional works such as The Virtue of Selfishness and Capitalism and with the understanding they gave me I again read AS when I was 18. This time I reckoned I understood 90% of the book. Alas, in the over 30 years since, I've not read the book (or indeed much of her work) since.

    Since my early 20's I have not let a day go by without continually questioning my belief-system. I have realised that, as in science, the only sensible way to determine the best socio-economic system for mankind to adopt to afford the most benefit to all is to use rational argument. I will give up my belief in Capitalism tomorrow if only someone could offer me a rational argument for doing so. My father taught me to be a Capitalist but I remain one today simply because no one has ever offered me a rational argument to stop being one.

    One thing I have come to learn is that by the standards of almost every single aspect of our culture the writings of Ayn Rand are mean, nasty, heartless and filthy. From Prometheus to Harry Potter, from the corruption of the Capitalist hero Robin Hood to the way the word profit is spat out in modern TV dramas and news programmes our whole culture is predicated on the concept that the purpose of your life is to live it for the benefit of others. The problem for those that advocate this is that every single organism on the planet, for the entire history of the planet, only ever gets off its fat idle backside if it or its own are the beneficiaries of that effort. Even when Ivy Starnes' real world counterparts used guns and the gulag to force their compatriots to do this un-natural thing, the resultant bread queues showed that it's an unsustainable concept.

    I disagree with your argument that AR failed. I seem to remember somewhere in her writing something along the lines of: "If my purpose is to win the propaganda battle then I should choose different words than Selfishness and Greed but if my purpose is to win the argument then they, with their dictionary definitions as they are, will do just fine". (If she didn't say it then I'd like to say it on her behalf!)

    The real issue (as identified by AR herself) is that we need to educate the masses that the concept of selflessness is not the ideal it's portrayed as and that the concept of rational-selfishness is not the evil mankind's slave-drivers have taught us it is. Inventing new less-offensive words might help with this task but I doubt it.

    As for when it's best to introduce a person to AR? Well, I shudder to think what blind alleys I would have gone down in the last 30 years had I not read AR's works in my late teens. It pains me beyond words that my 18 year old son has read on the internet that AR's writings do not fit in the real world and so seems reluctant to read any of her works. He has gained my right-wing views but without the understanding and guidance that AR's (non-fictional in particular) work offers I fear he will develop to be the sort of bigoted person at the heart of Britain's Conservative and America's Republican parties.

    I think the lesson to learn is that AR by no means got everything right (her exaltation of the man who lives by reason alone is one example), she seemed not to have lived her own life by the standards she created (an interview she gives denigrating the Arab people is - by her own teachings - sickening) and the works of AR should be treated as a guide not a bible then I suggest that, with the right guidance, AR's works can indeed be read and understood by a teenager. After all, it worked for me!
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  • Posted by lmarrott 9 years, 4 months ago
    I found Rand and AS in a roundabout way. On the one hand I actually saw it a few times here and there at houses or stores and had this strange desire to read it. Having no idea what it was. But then it was a Fantasy author I read who revealed that he tried to have his main character portray objectivism as best as he could that got me to try it out.

    So I was probably about 25 when I read AS for the first time. However what I found was that it lined up with many things about who I am better than anything else ever had before. Not to say I had it all figured out, but little things.

    For example my family knows I'm stubborn. Not only stubborn but I will not accept help from them, especially monetary help. When I graduated HS it did not occur to me that I could ask my parents to help pay for college, so I joined the military as a way to get out of the house and begin supporting myself in a way.

    So while I agree that I may not have gotten as much out of it in High School I think I would have loved it and gotten something out of it even then. And I agree with khalling and many others when I get more out of it every time I read it.
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  • Posted by SkipStein 9 years, 4 months ago
    I totally disagree. I gave my oldest Grandson Atlas Shrugged after re-reading it a few years ago; he was a high school junior (not a University of Florida Freshman). He has some dificulties getting through some of the more involved sections but got through it. Shortly thereafter the first Atlas Shrugged movie was released and we went together. I think he was the youngest in the audience by about 30 years!

    Afterwards, while I attended to the rest room, I found him in a detailed discussion with a gentleman in his 70's about the content, impact and social implications the movie presented and how well it represented the book. I was amazed at his cogent discussion.

    I hope he will carry insights into his college years as a foundation to combat the horrendous liberal bias on most/all college campuses. SO far so good I think.

    You can never begin to expand your mind too soon but only can do so when your reading comprehension capacity allows it to be so. My grandson was reading Harry Potter with me at age 5 so he got a jump start!

    Skip Stein
    Management Systems Consulting, Inc.
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  • Posted by katboh 9 years, 4 months ago
    An interesting post which made me reflect. One thing that bothers me though is lumping mature/immature people into age categories, which seem to be arbitrary. Twelve years old is perhaps too young, but I think it depends more on the individual maturity, intelligence and reading skills than anything else. But how do you know that your daughter won't be ready until 21? Are you saying that at 18 (and some states 17), she'd be able to vote and have a say in politics of her country or even to enlist and risk her life for her country, but not be able to read and understand AS? If she is raised in an environment when you and your partner are objectivists and surely lead by example showing her values you believe in, why not assume the best: that she will be able to understand in her own time and that both of you will recognize that time. Why create an arbitrary line? There surely won't be any miraculous switch in her brain happening on the night of her 21st birthday.
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  • Posted by MIKEinLB68 9 years, 4 months ago
    Choosing when a child - especially your own child - reads a book, is not the same as banning them from it. Algebra is not a sensible subject to introduce to someone unfamiliar with addition or multiplication. Worse, if the person in question has serious misunderstanding concerning arithmetic. Sometimes a faulty understanding of a concept needs to be destroyed before you can go on.
    Dagny called him "The Destroyer." And she was accidentally correct. Before anyone from the outside world entered the Gulch, they had to lose their misunderstanding of how the world truly worked. They had to undergo a very severe mental / social / ethical maturation. None were invited before they were ready. They had to grow up.
    I read Anthem in High School but didn't dive into AS and Fountainhead until I was in college. I was ready for them then. After 12 years of Catholics school, it took a little time for me to understand, embrace and cherish the word "ego." Maybe "baby steps" are what I needed. The idea that one should never live one's life for another person would have been monstrous at one stage in my life. Yet it turned out to be lately obvious, sensible and acceptable at a later one. Instead of switching one set of propaganda sermons for another, I was lucky enough to be able to accept a new set of understanding based on logic and reason. I was given the theory, the ability to observe it in action and then decide whether or not it was sound enough for me to accept. I had to take a few Adult extension courses.
    Only a few are from the original Class of the Gulch - most of us others are the later freshmen who benefited from their independent study.
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  • Posted by minis4ever 9 years, 4 months ago
    I first read AS at 12, and then usually every 5 years since then. Then read other Rand writings in between times. I am due to re-read AS now as a matter of fact. I need that AS fix to help me get through our current political problems. As I grew, so did AS. I base my life on Objectivism. I believe I am a better person for having done so. It has led to extreme conversations with my father, friends of AR, and ignorant folk that believe she is a quack. Starting at an early age with this book is an education in and of itself. It helped make me a thinker not a user. The word is selfless, not selfish. To censor is to control. Our Country is there now, and failure seems eminent. Unless this child is severely immature, I see no reason to not allow her the book. Reading only brings us forward with new thoughts.
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  • Posted by dbhalling 9 years, 4 months ago
    Thanks for the interesting post. I was looking for a book to read in my sophomore year of college and my mom recommended The Fountainhead. It reminded me of the tale of Galileo and Catholic Church. I was so taken with the story, which I started just before finals week. Eventually I decided I would not get any studying done until I had finished it, so I put off studying and read nonstop so I could get on with my finals.

    I read Atlas Shrugged about six months later. The thing that was hardest for me to accept was her stance against state funding for science. However, within a five years I would see how government funding was being used to distort science. (See the ozone layer and acid rain at that time)

    I don't believe it would have matter if I had read in late high school or in college or later. My desire to better understand the details of what she was saying caused me to read all of her non-fiction books that were out at the time.
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  • Posted by plusaf 9 years, 5 months ago
    Well, before the thread disintegrated down there near the bottom, I was going to say that I was introduced to AS by a co-worker when I was about 25 and just a few years out of engineering school (RPI).

    It drastically changed the way I viewed the world around me and in that sense, yes, it DID "change my life."

    The first reading took me about 120 pages to "really get into the book." The second reading, a year or two later, took about five pages.

    I've been waiting 40 years for the Movie and with some luck I'll get to see ASIII in my lifetime. Some decades ago when I had a dream of being a screenwriter, I got to talk to someone from deLaurentis films, and he said that someone was actually planning to make the movie, but apparently that was one of the times when AR's grip prevented agreement.

    Oh, one more memory... the guy who introduced me to AS accompanied me to a lecture in a nearby city by Nathaniel Branden. As we left, I asked him if he got anything out of the rather psychology-focused talk.

    Yes, he admitted: it gave me insight about my relationship with my father that I'd never had before. While we'd often discussed philosophy, the early 70s were a time when psychology and therapy wasn't held in high esteem. That lecture made a bit of a difference in _his_ life.
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  • Posted by Owlsrayne 9 years, 5 months ago
    Maybe, the blog has some right and a lot wrong. I believe that opposing a teenager from reading "Atlas Shrugged" is not necessarily correct. My idea would be to have the teen read Ayn Rand's shorter novels first. Then if they understand those ideas then read "Atlas Shrugged". Then read it in a few more years later and after that read it a third time sometime later. I t took me reading "Atlas Shrugged" 3x and watching parts 1 & 2 of the movie to finally understand Ayn Rand's philosophy. That why I'm starting up a small home business at 63 yrs. old. Only time will tell if it works out. The only thing that bothers me is all the paper work that has to be has to be filled out for the State of Az. and the Fed Govt. just for an LLC.
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  • Posted by Danno 9 years, 5 months ago
    Until 21??? The problem is the parents stunting the child's curiosity which stunts intellectual growth (E.G. how mathematics is taught in the USA) Never do that to a child. Dangerous books? My god!
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  • Posted by jsw225 9 years, 5 months ago
    The problem is that you can't challenge someone to read Rand, especially a teenager. And you can't use reverse psychology to make it happen, either. If you trick someone into reading it when they are not ready for it, when they don't want to understand what is happening to the world, not only will they resent you, they'll doubt the material as well. They'll refuse to connect the words in the book to the real world.

    It has nothing to do with them being a teenager, or being in their formative years. I have a good friend who is on the cusp of understanding why the world is this way. Yet if I put the book in front of her, if I say that this will explain everything, she won't believe it. She won't believe me. You can't tell someone that the hot plate is hot. They need to put their hand on it themselves to find out.
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