Monday, March 24, 2008

Funding, with strings

The attached string dictates that the college/university teach a class with Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged as required reading.

The arguments:
1. Not a good idea. Sets a bad precedent.
2. Could be OK as long as the curriculum is properly balanced.
3. We'll lose this argument when the institution closes for lack of funds.

Lots of economists love Rand's work, and Allison himself puts the reason into words quite well:
"Most of the defenders of free markets mostly do it from an economic perspective," Allison says. "They argue that free markets produce a higher standard of living, which is certainly very good. But Rand makes a connection to human nature and why individual rights and free markets are the only system consistent with human nature."
But still. I'm going to have to be a purist and stick with Argument #1. Offering funds and then mandating curriculum as a caveat is a dangerous path to start down. It's one thing to donate money and require it to be used for certain areas of education. It's another to make that specific of a requirement.

However the worst part is that the idea to attach Rand as a necessity didn't originate with Allison, but from funds-hungry UNC Wilmington:
At least one school, UNC Wilmington, offered to make "Atlas Shrugged" a requirement, figuring "our proposal might be more favorably received" if it were part of the package, officials said in an e-mail to the Observer.

Wilmington got a commitment of more than $1 million. But unlike most campuses, the faculty voted to approve the proposal first.
...which is an even worse precedent to set.

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