Donald Hubin, the political and moral philosopher at Ohio State University, writes:
Many years ago, in the early 80s, I think, I taught an honors class that I think of as having the title: “It Usually Begins with Ayn Rand”. (That’s the title of a now-back-in-print book by Jerome Tuccille. I haven’t read it since the 70s but, as I recall, it’s a pretty entertaining romp through the lunatic fringe movements of an earlier era. Since I see it’s now back in print with a 25th anniversary edition, I might have to pick up a copy and read it again to see if my memory serves me well.) My working assumption was that many of the high school students who were intrigued by Ayn Rand were both smart and independent thinkers. Some of them, I thought, were drawn to Rand because they didn’t know what good philosophy was. So, I thought I’d try to grab some of these students and bring them into the light.
I assigned Atlas Shrugged to be read in the first week. (Yep, all 900 or so pages.) Then I took her arguments (presented there and in a number of essays I assigned for the next week) seriously and critiqued them in the way we would a serious philosopher’s arguments. I tried to be respectful of her rather than dismissive because I didn’t want the students who thought of themselves as Randians to “put up the shields”. But, of course, even a charitable interpretation doesn’t turn out to be very plausible. But I used her for a springboard into Murray Rothbard (we read his For a New Liberty). We spent a little time on him and other libertarian economists. Then we went to Nozick’s Anarchy, State, and Utopia, which we read closely along with some of the early criticisms of it.
It was actually a great course to teach—a lot of fun. I have a soft spot for those who went through a Randian phase, provided they were fairly young when they did it and they are now fully recovered.