To start with, what is objectivism in education?
One philosophy of education that challenges this theory is objectivism, which asserts that students must be engaged actively in the subject matter to learn. The ‘transform’ or ‘construct’ of reality, reason, knowledge, or truth is not encouraged by this theory.
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Table of Contents
What Is Objectivism?
Meaning is seen by objectivists as existing outside of the learner, or independently of them. Therefore, instructional designers emphasize strategies that efficiently and consistently establish and communicate object and event meaning to all learners. The learner’s job is to identify and label pertinent objects and events, arrange them into comprehensible groups, and combine new information with prior understanding. Using the cueing and amplification tools provided by the designer of the learning systems, the learner completes these tasks primarily by decoding the predetermined meaning of various objects and events.
In the objectivist theory, knowledge is viewed from a nominalistic perspective. As a result, it is believed that knowledge exists independently of any human experience and that it is the responsibility of the learner to acquire it. The definition of learning objectives is highly valued by objectivists, who also implicitly assume that the learner is a blank slate waiting to be filled by the teacher.”
Who Are Objectivists?
Extreme skepticism (the belief that nothing can be known with certainty) and mysticism (the belief in a supernatural being or beings for which there is no proof) are both rejected by objectivists.
Objectivists strive to uphold Reason because it is the only strategy for ensuring their survival and happiness. While reason itself may be perfect, our individual reasoning abilities are not. As a result, the objectivist seeks out as much pertinent information as is warranted and works to overcome their own prejudices when making decisions.
People on the far left and the far right, in contrast, advocate sacrifice as the highest virtue. Objectivists accept the claim that the goal of life is to pursue rational self-interest. With such canards, the Objectivist only sees a feeble attempt to manipulate their minds. An Objectivist would claim that both skeptics and religious people are opposed to reason, and they have a good case for doing so.
You can learn more by reading Ayn Rand’s The Virtue of Selfishness. You would be mistaken if you assumed the book’s meaning could be deduced from its title.
What Is Objectivism’s Core Tenet?
The following are the main ideas of Objectivism, the philosophy that Ayn Rand founded:
- You are a real person who exists in a real world.
- By using reason, which is the skill of reasoning logically, one can learn the facts of reality.
- A distinct living being, you are. Therefore, the greatest value is your life. It is morally imperative that you put your own needs for survival and fulfillment first.
- You should conduct business with others through trade, exchanging value for value. Work hard, be self-reliant, and show justice to others. Live by reason.
- You have a right to live and to be free to deal with others by peaceful means. The use of force against another person is not someone’s right to start. The political system that adheres to the morality of reason, productivity, justice, and trade is laissez-faire capitalism, also known as the free market.
- Inspiration and purpose in life are essential for people. It is for this reason that, among other things, we require philosophy and art.
There is a lot more to say about what Objectivism entails. I’ve left out a lot of information here, and there’s a lot more that could be understood by going beyond the basics of what I’ve said.
Teaching Objectivism Implicitly
Many of the Objectivists I encounter seem to believe that my contributions to our cause are limited to the degree to which I explicitly and consistently include Rand and Objectivism in my classes. They undervalue the challenges posed by adopting such a strategy, in my opinion. Furthermore, I believe they undervalue the advantages of a more implicit strategy.
What exactly do I mean by an “implicit approach”? What makes it my preference, and how do I go about pursuing it? Let’s start with the first question since I will be responding to each one in turn.
To teach Objectivism implicitly, what does that mean? It entails integrating some core Objectivist ideas into the structure of my courses, even if they are only marginally or tangentially focused on Objectivism. It entails utilizing what are in fact wholly Objectivist concepts and principles when creating and delivering my lectures. It entails presenting Objectivism and, in particular, evaluating other philosophers. In all these ways, I frequently teach Objectivism subtly because I do so by putting the philosophy’s methodology into practice rather than by elaborating on it. I’m “showing” rather than “telling,” as the saying goes.”
What makes the implicit approach preferable to the explicit approach? There are two options available. I was not hired to teach Objectivism on a large scale, so to do so would be against the terms of my contract. It is not conceivable that Objectivism could be regarded as a component of the course material, so attempting to incorporate it into my courses would be detrimental to my students.
My third justification for adopting the implicit strategy is private. The spread of Objectivism was not my main motivation for pursuing a career in academia. In a statement made by Rand herself, you will learn what her purpose is:
I support capitalism less than I support egoism, and I support reason more than I support egoism. All the rest follows if one acknowledges the superiority of reason and uses it consistently. This—the supremacy of reason—has been, is, and always will be the main focus of my work and the core of objectivism. [Brief Summary by Ayn Rand, The Objectivist, September 1971.]
Putting that into my context, I would say: communicating and defending the supremacy of reason was, is, and will be the primary concern of my work as a teacher. It’s a job that I compare to raising kids. Since reason is a person’s primary survival tool, I focus primarily on teaching cognitive skills to give my students the skills they need to live independently. In the end, this is the reason why I’ve never tried to explain Objectivism’s ideas in my classes. I think that before I can worry too much about teaching my students to think about Objectivism, I need to teach them how to think critically.
How then do I go about implicitly teaching Objectivism? Making use of what are, in fact, distinctly Objectivist concepts and principles to design and deliver my lectures was one of the techniques I mentioned earlier. Here is a more thorough illustration.
Greek Philosophy: A Critical Introduction is a course offered by my department. The Hellenistic movement and Aristotle.” This is supposed to be, according to the description that was published: “A quick review of Aristotle’s ideas on drama, psychology, knowledge, ethics, and politics will be followed by a quick look at Plotinus, Epicureanism, Stoicism, and Skepticism.” Notice how there is no logical hierarchy present in this. Why start with what Aristotle thought about drama? Why would one spend any time at all on this subject in a course that ultimately only serves to introduce students to Aristotle? Observe how often the word “brief” is used in this description as well. The course is for one term only. The course did not have any prerequisites when this description first appeared. The course was designed to introduce the students to all of this material in twelve weeks without the students having any prior knowledge of Plato or even any fundamental philosophical ideas.
Students are not taught to think through a superficial smorgasbord like this. It results in what Rand refers to as the concrete-bound, anti-conceptual mentality, which in this context refers to a mentality that views every new datum in the course as a new, raw, isolated concrete, unrelated to anything else in the course, unrelated to any wider philosophical principles, and unrelated to any conceptual context.
We won’t be adhering to this course description, is one of the first things I tell my students. Only Aristotle is what we study. And his metaphysics and epistemology are our main concerns. Other aspects of his philosophy and any of the Hellenistic systems mentioned in the description are covered in class only briefly or in handouts. They are not fundamental enough in a course of this caliber to merit consideration.
Fundamentality, as Rand put it, is the foundation of what I emphasize to my students as “philosophical detection,” so to speak.”
A philosophical detective must keep in mind that all human knowledge is organized in a hierarchical manner; he must learn to distinguish between the fundamental and the derivative, and when evaluating a particular philosopher’s system, he must look—first and foremost—at its foundations. Nothing else will stand if the foundation does not. Epistemology and metaphysics are the cornerstones of philosophy. Man’s proper ethics, politics, and aesthetics can be defined in terms of a knowable universe and a rational faculty’s capacity to comprehend it.
Even in a logic course where the excellent textbook The Art of Reasoning by David Kelley, who is an Objectivist, is used, it is challenging to advance past this implicit level. This work is obviously applicable to a logic course taught by an Objectivist professor. But how much Objectivism would the students be exposed to explicitly? In general, Kelley’s text does draw heavily on objectivism in terms of topic selection, structuring, and presentation, as well as some of the specific ideas it employs. The author of this text could only be an Objectivist. Additionally, as an Objectivist, I frequently detect the philosophy in the exercises and examples given, as well as in the selection of arguments examined. It is still true, however, that Objectivism is required to understand this. The fact is not known to non-Objectivists. Thus, even though I am able to teach a significant amount of Objectivist epistemology through the use of Kelley’s text, this is still largely happening implicitly. See more about What Is LEP In Education?
Teaching Objectivism Explicitly
The easiest courses for explicitly teaching Rand are those in ethical or political philosophy, despite the fact that there is a logic textbook written by an Objectivist. One of the reasons is that excerpts from Rand are appearing in anthologies in these fields, anthologies edited by non-Objectivists. John Hospers’ writings from the late 1960s marked the start of this trend, though there are also examples from more recent times.
While it is pleasing to see Ayn Rand mentioned in such books, it is still true that students will only get a glimpse of her philosophy from these picks. In fact, I don’t use any of these anthologies. They are all geared toward the superficial smorgasbord approach to philosophy to which I previously objected because they are all designed for general, introductory courses in philosophy. However, there are a number of Rand’s writings that can be used as readings if one is teaching courses in ethics or politics, or if one is teaching these topics in a general first-year introductory course. Following that, these can be thoroughly examined, expanded upon, and explained.
Unfortunately, there isn’t much introductory, reasonably self-contained material written by Objectivists for other philosophical disciplines. Any of my history courses will undoubtedly demonstrate this. In her article “For The New Intellectual,” where she rails against the conflict between Attila and the Witch Doctor, Rand devotes the most time to discussing the development of philosophy. I can’t assign this article to my students and expect them to take her seriously until they have thoroughly researched the history of philosophy and in a way that makes Rand’s argument, and especially her evaluation, understandable to them.
How about the works of David Kelley? I do make these suggestions in some situations, but the situations are very specific. Kelley’s The Evidence of the Senses and his article on abstraction [“A Theory of Abstraction] are too complex and technical for any of my courses as well as for the majority of my students. I don’t instruct courses at the graduate level. Even my advanced epistemology undergraduate courses are not taught by me.
Aside from that, I can’t expect my students to spend their money on a variety of books by Rand or other authors just to read one article or a chapter. I currently have a number of students who are unable to pay for their typical textbooks. Instead, how about handing out copies of selected passages? Copyright, photocopying costs, and other pesky issues are present. At my current university, I have very little money set aside for such costs, and by the time I hand out outlines, essay topics, and other handouts, that money is usually gone.
Nevertheless, I do plan to systematically review the body of work produced by Rand and other Objectivists to see how different articles or excerpts from articles can be included in my lectures or handouts. Future exploits should focus on some obvious things. In her essay “Philosophy: Who Needs It is a fantastic way to introduce students to the subject.
What are the chances that an institution will start offering a course that is solely focused on Objectivism? There are two possible outcomes for such a course.
(i) the top-down method I have a lot of control over the courses we offer in my department because I’m the chairman of the curriculum committee. So I could push for the addition of an Objectivism course. I do not, though, as there is no plausible justification—acceptable to my peers—for allocating any of our resources to it.
Furthermore, even if by some miracle I managed to enroll in such a course, its cultural impact would be insignificant. A “big” university needs to teach this course if we are to make any significant, long-lasting progress with it. We might anticipate a spillover effect to other universities if Harvard or Cornell regularly offered Rand courses in their philosophy departments.
However, even if I were to succeed in getting such a course approved by my school, we would need to first carve out a professional niche for the philosophy in order to make it respectable and significant enough to merit inclusion in the curriculum. To do that, we would require a number of Objectivist philosophers with active academic positions, publications in reputable journals, presentations at reputable conferences, etc. We currently lack anything close to the critical mass required to persuade a department to dedicate a course to Objectivism. Depressingly few graduate students and philosophers who subscribe to Objectivism are available.
And finally, Rand herself has left us with a burdensome legacy to bear. For the rest of us, the battle has been made more difficult by the fact that she completely avoided academia and that her published remarks about it, and specifically about academic philosophers, were (to put it mildly) negative. Because she obviously had no respect for modern philosophers, she did not demand or expect their respect. Although my own interactions with my colleagues have been much better than I believe Rand would have anticipated, I do not mean to imply that her assessment was flawed. However, it is still true that you cannot denounce academia as a haven for the absurd and evil while simultaneously demanding that academics accept your ideas in their place. Additionally, Rand’s theories are so fundamentally dissimilar from those of the majority of academics as to be incomprehensible, which presents another challenge.
The IOS is working to encourage more students to pursue academic careers and is supporting current academics, so many of these limitations are being actively addressed. It also helps that those of us who are connected to the Institute are working to promote more charitable relationships with our coworkers. These, however, are very long-term plans.
(ii) the grassroots method. Do the demands of the students increase the likelihood of a change occurring? It’s important to not undervalue this route. One of the reasons Existentialism is taught at every university I’ve ever attended is due to demand. Students frequently ask about Nietzsche, making him one of the few philosophers whose courses draw significant enrollments. However, a sizable number of students must come into contact with Rand elsewhere in order to spark a grass-roots movement calling for her inclusion in the philosophy curriculum. Once more, this is one of the functions that the Institute and its members can perform.
What does objectivism mean in plain English?
Humans should be utterly self-absorbed, greedy assholes who are willing to burn their toys should they not be showered with adoration and praise at every turn, in complete rejection of the observable reality of social strength and the value of cooperative action.