Sunday, October 11, 2015
Is Ayn Rand's Anthem Rigorous Enough for High School?
Rigor is defined by some teachers as the amount of homework or the expectation of daily quizzes. Others believe it is related to the quality of the materials studied and the level of sophistication in the text. As I deal with discussions of appropriate - and appropriately rigorous - texts for high school students, I am struggling with my feelings toward Ayn Rand's Anthem. While this dystopian novel has been taught at both the middle and high school level, I feel the simplicity of the text and the overly transparent nature of the theme and message make it far more appropriate for early middle school. It's more like Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451 or Lois Lowry's The Giver, than it is Orwell's 1984 or Huxley's Brave New World. Of course, the Ayn Rand Foundation offers Anthem as the freshman and sophomore book choice for its essay contest each year, but I don't think I'll base my ideas about pedagogy on their recommendations. Obviously, Rand wrote this book geared toward children as a way of contributing to the dystopian genre - and offering her own indoctrination. The book is, after all, roughly one hundred pages. And, it begins with sentences like "It is a sin to write this. It is a sin to think words no other think ..." That just doesn't sound like a high school text to me - and if it is, that may be part of the problem in public education.