‘Atlas Shrugged.’ Required reading? Not likely.

The chairman of the Senate Education Committee pushed a tongue-in-cheek bill Tuesday intending to send a message to the Idaho State Board of Education.

Sen. John Goedde’s bill would add Ayn Rand’s book “Atlas Shrugged” to Idaho high school graduation requirements. The bill also would require students to pass a test on the book, meaning all Idaho high school graduates would be able to answer the novel’s recurring query: “Who is John Galt?”

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Sen. John Goedde

Although Goedde said he does not expect to move forward with the bill, members of the committee voted unanimously to introduce it. After the meeting, Goedde said he does not expect to call a full hearing on the bill in committee, meaning the bill would not advance to the Senate.

Goedde said he was frustrated that voters repealed the online course graduation requirement in the now-defunct Students Come First laws. He said he wanted to demonstrate there are other vehicles for setting graduation requirements.

“This is a shot over their bow, if you will,” Goedde said. “We are all aware the State Board of Education sets graduation requirements, (and) this proposes setting graduation requirements in statue.”

Goedde said he and his 34-year-old son, Brian both read the book.

“That book made my son a Republican,” Goedde said during the hearing.

Rand’s voluminous book, first published in 1957, has been hailed by tea party members and free market advocates.

After the hearing, Idaho Education News asked Goedde if he also would have considered lengthening the school year to allow students time to read the more than 1,100 page book.

“More learning is good,” Goedde responded.

In other business, the committee introduced three other bills Tuesday, with little discussion:

  • Sen. Lee Heider, R-Twin Falls, presented a bill that would require school boards to expel students convicted of violent crimes. The language would apply to violent felonies or misdemeanors, “or of any crime that resulted in imprisonment for one year or longer.” The bill would not apply to cases that have been closed for five years or longer. Heider said the bill was prompted by an incident in his legislative district. Two convicted felons were enrolled in a public school, he said, and started gangs and began selling drugs in school.
  • Goedde introduced a bill to restore language requiring school districts to post their budgets and master contracts online. These requirements were not included in Students Come First, but were repealed when the laws were overturned in November. “I don’t know how it got lost in the process,” Goedde said. “We’re just bringing it back.”
  • Sen. Steven Thayn, R-Emmett, presented a bill that would encourage teachers to hold home visits with kindergartners during the first week of the school year.