As more and more young people become interested in Ayn Rand’s ideas and methodology, there is an increasing need and demand for an institution that systematically teaches her philosophy. In fact, such an institution exists.
The Ayn Rand Institute’s Objectivist Academic Center offers students an opportunity to formally study Rand’s philosophy. According to the Institute’s website, the OAC “offers a systematic program of instruction in the essentials of Objectivism and in the nature of objective thought and communication.”
The program is intended to be a supplement to an undergraduate college education, and can be thought of as a minor in Objectivism. Launched in 2001, it has grown rapidly both in its curriculum and student body. Courses are taught online and via teleconference, so that students can attend from anywhere in the world. Students unable to attend live are provided access to class recordings and posted discussions. Most full-time students receive full tuition waivers and phone scholarships, so that the OAC is easily affordable by all who get admitted.
The program opens with a pair of introductory courses on philosophy and non-fiction writing, with the objective of developing the student’s critical analysis and communication skills. Through lectures, organized discussions, written assignments, and tutorials, instructors work to help students improve the clarity of their thinking and writing.
Later years include courses like the “Seminar on Ayn Rand’s Philosophy of Objectivism” (“SARPO”) and “Understanding Objectivism” (based on Dr. Leonard Peikoff’s lecture course of the same name), in which the principles of Objectivism are brought under the microscope and meticulously inspected—dramatized, essentialized, drawn out to their full implications, and integrated with each other. Students see the implications of these principles on ethics, politics, art, science, and history. They are pushed to relate what they learn to both their other academic knowledge, and their own life experiences.
Many students interested in Objectivism start by studying Rand’s works on their own. While valuable knowledge can be gained as a result, there is no substitute for the input, guidance, and professional feedback of live experts. Students who have entered the OAC program with the expectation that it would serve as “review,” or that they would just be rehashing the material they had already mastered through their years of independent study, are almost invariably hit with a strong dose of reality as to the actual extent of their understanding. The level of understanding expected of them in their OAC papers generally far exceeds that attained by their own readings.
The OAC Early Admission deadline for the 2008-2009 academic year is April 16, 2008; the Regular Admission deadline is July 30, 2008. Admission is highly selective, so interested students should consider applying early.
Gena is an undergraduate at Tufts University and the New England Conservatory of Music, triple-majoring in philosophy, psychology, and vocal performance. She plans to attend graduate school in psychology and/or music. She has completed the four-year core program at the Objectivist Academic Center.