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Objectivist Contributions to Discussions of Education

In another Facebook thread, Jack Criss discusses Leonard Peikoff's course (turned into an edited, transcribed book), "Teaching Johnny To Think: A Philosophy of Education Based on the Principles of Ayn Rand's Objectivism." I commented on the course and on other Objectivist contributions to discussions of education and pedagogy:

I remember the audio lectures (of Peikoff's Education course) from years ago. [They are a] good companion piece to Rand's essay on "The Comprachicos" and Barbara Branden's lectures on "Principles of Efficient Thinking" (published as "Think as If Your Life Depends On It").

Whatever your views of Barbara as a person (and she and I were dear friends), that course was an authorized course under NBI and is pure gold. I also wrote the foreword to its print version. Though the Objectivists don't speak the language of "dialectics", I think the course offers gems on how to think dialectically (that is, contextually). It is really a terrific book to finally see in print. I think Barbara made a very real contribution. It is really the first book ever written on Objectivist psycho-epistemology, an area of study that she brought to the attention of both NB and AR.

[It is true that] every person who gave lectures at NBI had to get the approval of Rand, which is why Rand made it a point of saying that all the works, lectures, etc., given by the Brandens prior to 1968 were still among the only "authorized" sources on Objectivism. But to my knowledge, Barbara authored that course, certainly with Rand's editorial oversight. Let's not forget, however, that Barbara did earn a graduate degree in philosophy under Sidney Hook, the same NYU philosopher who was the mentor to Leonard Peikoff. Barbara's graduate thesis on free will was a gem. (I also remarked that Peikoff's doctoral thesis under Hook was "a fine dissertation--though LP distanced himself from it, unnecessarily in my view. While we are on the subject, I think the best course Peikoff ever gave was his "Understanding Objectivism.")

The NB "Basic Principles of Objectivism" course was the first systematization of Rand's philosophy and on that basis alone is of prime historical interest. But it also offers some very fine material that is not covered in Peikoff's "Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand" presentation, especially the material on self-esteem. BTW, the sad part about the "Understanding Objectivism" book is that it is edited; Edith Packer gave two very good lectures in that course, but given Peikoff's falling out with George Reisman (and Packer, his wife), none of that material is in the book. And the book, of course, lacks the interesting Q&A discussions.

Unfortunately, the online course that is currently available cuts out those two lectures by Packer. I don't know if it also cuts out the Question and Answer sessions, but Peikoff does a very good job of discussing the various problems that emerge within Objectivism when it is infected by "empiricist" or "rationalist" elements; he even makes a good case against the split between emotion and reason, and against the use of moralizing and psychologizing in Objectivism. (Unfortunately, as the years have gone by, I don't believe the important points he made quite sunk in; and in many respects, some of his comments with regard to the errors that some Randians make in their application of Objectivism were first examined by Nathaniel Branden in what was, perhaps, his finest post-Randian work, "The Disowned Self.")