Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The Fountainhead and Homeschooling

The Goodwill in Reno has the most amazing assortment of used books.  I love it.  I was there last week and I saw a brand new, beautiful copy of "The Fountainhead" by Ayn Rand. I have always heard of her, but had never read one of her books.

Last night I finished the book and it has really made me think. I appreciate books that challenge thinking and challenge who we are and the beliefs that we hold dear.

Have you read the book?  Since I am without a book club right now, I thought I would send my thoughts out there, for my own edification mostly.

I really liked the symbolism in the book. This is a book of symbolism, cleverly told in a story of a man who is an architect in the 1920's.  You must keep in mind that Rand is Russian-born and her family life was deeply affected by Lenin and the evils of communism.  She lived it.  I would have to say that this is her skillful and articulate way of exposing communism for what it really is, and evil empire. It is powerful and poignant. 

There is only one thing about this book that was offensive to me; the complete marginalization of God. Obviously Rand is an athiest. One clear message in the book is that if you believe in God then you are weak. I know that she is completely wrong in this aspect of the book. Belief is not a weakness.  But I am going to set that specious part of it aside and focus on the stuff that really spoke to me.

The pursuit of excellence for excellence sake is what we should seek in our lives. This is one of the main reasons why I have chosen to homeschool my children. I don't want them to be educated so that I can put a cheesy bumper sticker on the back of my car stating that my kid is an honor roll student somewhere.  I don't need them to go to school so that I can see them in a school play or riding a school bus or carrying a backpack.  I don't seek the prestige of the PTA or so that my kid can be in some gifted program. 

 I don't want them to go to school so that they can get an 'A', as if a certain grade is the end game in their lives. I don't want them to study so that they can get high marks on some test that provides federal funding  for the school district and props up bureaucrats and labor unions.

I want them to love learning, to pursue it, to crave it. I work to give them those tools so that they can pursue what they want. Grades are unimportant, and in this day and age,  with an academic culture of dishonesty and cheating, they really don't mean a darn thing anyway. They didn't mean anything when I was in school, except to prop one student up against another, to compare, to belittle, to classify.

Why does Howard Roark build buildings? Because he loves to create. Period. There is no other reason. 

Why do I do things? What is my motivation? I know I need to constantly reexamine the why in everything I do.  I want to do something because it is the right thing to do, because I have integrity.  I want to do something because it makes me happy, because it brings joy to me. I am a mother, but it does not define who I am as a person. My children's accomplishments are theirs. If I have a dream, it has to be for me and no one else.

The antagonist in the book is Ellsworth Toohey.  He has no achievements of his own.  He is a parasite who lives off of the accomplishments of others and sits back and criticizes anyone who achieves and excels at anything. I think we all have a little Toohey in each of us. He attempts to take power in the most despicable way possible.  Or he promotes mediocrity so that when we see greatness, we won't be able to recognize it because we are inundated with nonsense and drivel.  Isn't that how you would define celebrity these days?  Hmmm.... Paris Hilton, Kardashians, maybe?  What does a celebrity actually do or accomplish besides promote themselves and stuff they are selling?

Since schools teach children to read and write and take tests, but rarely teach them how to actually think, we are creating a society full of mediocrity and Toohey's who nurture it and are enslaved by it.  In a world where celebrity is more important than achievement, this book is more prevalent today than it has ever been.


Melanie said...

I actually read this and wrote an essay on it for a scholarship application in high school (didn't get the scholarship) but thought the book was interesting...we'll have to chat it up.

Hoku said...

Such interesting points!

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