Ayn Rand held that ideas determine the course of an individual’s life and the course of human history. For those passionate about ideas—and the fight for a rational culture—one excellent career choice is a career in academia.
An academic career involves much more than teaching. A single day might consist of teaching a class, doing research for a future book, working on a journal article, meeting with students, grading papers, answering email, attending a faculty meeting and advising a graduate student on his thesis.
An academic career offers someone attracted to Ayn Rand’s philosophy the ability to spend his life studying and communicating ideas through research, teaching and writing. Whether one is interested in philosophy, physics, literature or law, an academic career enables one to make a living by dealing with ideas and their application to the real world.
Academics, through their work, can also have a profound influence on the culture. The battle for a rational culture is, in large part, a battle for the universities. College is where most people form the philosophical convictions that will guide them for the rest of their lives—and it is vital that students be exposed to rational ideas and not simply the smorgasbord of irrationality they face today.
Some students who are fans of Ayn Rand have had professors who are hostile toward her ideas. For this reason, they may become wary of an academic career, suspecting that their interest in Ayn Rand will make it difficult for them to flourish in academia. While there have, unfortunately, been cases of individuals facing such career obstacles, it is not true that academia is closed to Objectivist intellectuals. A number of Objectivist scholars have proven that, with commitment and hard work, one can succeed in academia while maintaining an open interest in Ayn Rand.
That is not to say there aren’t drawbacks and challenges to a career in academia. Whether or not one is an Objectivist, the pay in academia is relatively low, the job market is particularly competitive, and one must spend years in school before one is able to work in the field. Moreover, while one need not conceal one’s ideas to succeed in academia, it is still true that the ideas of some modern academics are philosophically corrupt and their methodology is fundamentally flawed. To succeed in academia, one must learn to understand these bad ideas and methodologies in detail, and discover how to communicate one’s own ideas to such vastly different contexts.
Of course one has no obligation to go into academia in order to save the culture: there is no duty to change the culture, nor is being an academic the only way to influence the culture. One must look honestly at what academia is and at one’s own goals, interests and skills, and decide whether academia is a good fit. There are many other avenues for individuals who want to pursue an intellectual career outside of academia: from journalism to law to magazine writing. (For Objectivism’s view on career planning, in general, see “Productiveness as the Adjustment of Nature to Man” in chapter 8 of Dr. Leonard Peikoff’s book Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand.)
But for someone who does want to work in academia, it’s not necessarily clear how to go about pursuing such a career. That is the purpose of the website. Each section of the site is devoted to outlining the steps a student should take, from high school through graduate school, in order to become a successful academic. It also identifies the many resources available from ARI to help students succeed in that journey.
Disclaimer: This site is intended to provide a general overview of what is involved in building an academic career, and to highlight the kinds of issues students considering such a career should think about. It is not intended to provide comprehensive advice or to address any individual student’s situation.