Two students from Rebekah Smith's sophomore Honors English 2 at Shelbyville High School were selected as finalists in a national essay contest sponsored by the The Ayn Rand Institute. They are Ailey Mitchell and Allison Schuricht.
There were more than 11,000 essays submitted last year. That means Ailey and Allison were in the top 2 percent of submissions.They're both juniors this year; the essays were from the spring 2018 contest, when they were sophomores.
The Ayn Rand Institute sponsors an essay contest every year for high school students. Last year's essays focused on the value in the individual in relation to the novel "Anthem," which was written as a warning about the dangers of collectivism and Communism, which Ayn Rand was seeing in her home country of Russia.
The institute sends free books to teachers who would like to use Rand’s works in their classrooms.
Ailey focused on how societies like the one in Anthem are able to persist because they are able to successfully brainwash and control their citizens. Here is a quote from her paper:
“If you remove all individuality from a person then they will have no choice but to do what the others around them are doing; you will have complete control over them, and with them everyone else. A collective group is easier to control then all individual people. Trying to control every separate person is nearly impossible, but if you can make them think the same things, then it only takes one person to control them all.”
Allison focused on the hero’s struggle to escape the collectivist society and his desire to create a new society that allowed the individual to flourish. Here is a quote from her paper:
“Every society on earth has different morals pertaining to how life should be lived. Within Anthem by Ayn Rand, the main character struggles with the collectivist morality of his home and later opts for a more individualist viewpoint when attempting to create his own society. The morality of the collectivist society is in direct juxtaposition to his new society because he believed in thinking for himself and wanted each man to individuate himself from the general public instead of subjecting to conformity through the customs of others.”