Saturday, February 19, 2011


Fred Clark has good news and bad news. The good is that his daughter's qualified for honors English. The bad is that the teacher is making her read The Fountainhead. As Fred puts it, with humor as well as truth:
I like the idea of my daughter taking honors English. I do not like the idea of my daughter taking honors English from someone who regards The Fountainhead as worthwhile. I do not like the idea of her studying literature with a teacher who doesn't like literature and who seems intent on infecting students with her distaste for it.

Set aside the appalling themes and juvenile narcissism of the book's pseudo-philosophy. It's dull. Numbingly, claw-your-eyes-out dull. It's horribly written, yet its horribleness never manages to be horrible in an entertaining way. This is the sort of book that can ruin reading -- the very idea of reading -- for months or years afterward.


We can't read everything. Most of us won't get around to reading most things and we'll wind up leaving inspiring, insightful, beautiful, life-enhancing books on the shelf. Time spent reading repetitive dreck like The Fountainhead is time spent not reading those other books -- books that actually deserve to be read, the reading of which will enrich us and maybe even improve us.

Reading The Fountainhead does not enrich or improve. It stupefies. Time spent reading this book would be better spent watching television. Time spent reading this book would be better spent watching a Jersey Shore marathon on television. That execrable MTV program would do just as much to prepare a high school student for college. And Snooki is a better role model -- a better person -- than Rand or her protagonists.

If the honors English teacher actually did require students to watch a Jersey Shore marathon, I would suspect that this wasn't a very good class. But I would be less suspicious of that teacher than I am of this one.

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