Thesis Statement: Objectivism: The Objectivist Theory/Approach in the classroom of the twenty-first century.
Student ID#: R1601D1250462
ED4U024- Developing Learning in Organizations
Masters of Arts in Education
The University of South Wales
October 14, 2018
In this paper the writer will explore the Objectivist Theory/Approach as it relates to the relevance or importance in the twenty-first classroom. The writer deemed this exploration necessary as there is a new trend to get educators to subscribe to the Constructivist Theory because it is believed to be more acceptable and the better of the two. Through many online and face-to-face discussion it has be brought up that the constructivist way is the “way” and it is predominantly preferred by many educator around the world. While I think that the constructivist approach to teaching and learning is better for the twenty-first century because of the teaching and learning goals and objectives; I still believe that there is still room for the objectivist approach.
This article will look at the philosophical background of the theory and the theorist; a definition for the term will be presented in this piece. A historical time line will also be used to show where the theory is coming from to where it is now. The writer will capture the ideas of other writers and researchers on the topic. The writer will explore some benefits to the objectivist approach as well as some drawbacks to the approach. In this article the write will do a short comparison of the two approaches/theories.
This paper explore objectivism and its contribution to teaching and learning. The intention of the paper is to get readers and educators to understand that there is still room for the objectivist approach to teaching and learning in the twenty-first century. In light of the modern trend to get more educators using the constructivism approach many have seem to shun the ideologies and teachings of the objectivists failing to recognize the important contribution the theory/approach has made to the teaching and learning process over the years.
Many believe that the objectivists way of teaching is old and as a result some tend to move away from using such approach in the teaching process. I personally believe that they both can contribute positively to the teaching and learning process therefore as an educator both approaches are used daily; I operate in a bi-modal classroom. I can share many success stories about using the two approaches to engage my students.
According to https://www.philosophybasics.com/branch_objectivism.html Objectivism is the view that there is a reality, or realm of objects and facts, which exists wholly independent of the mind. Thus, Objectivism holds that there is only one correct description of reality, whether we have any knowledge of it or not. Therefore, existence takes primacy over consciousness, which means existence exists independently of consciousness and the essential function of consciousness is the grasp of existence. Therefore, the underlying objective reality can be perceived in different ways.
Objectivity is the strict adherence to truth-conducive methods in one's thinking, particularly taking into account all available information and avoiding any form of prejudice, bias or wishful thinking. The term "objective" can be applied to methods used in this process or results produced by it.
Ayn Rand the founder of Objectivism had her own ideas about the world and thus captured his thoughts in her theory. Rand described Objectivism as “a philosophy for living on earth.” The reason why it is a philosophy for living on earth is that its every principle is derived from the observable facts of reality and the demonstrable requirements of human life and happiness (The Objective Standard, 2018). Objectivism is the philosophy of rational individualism. Born in Russia 1905, she has opposed the communist ideals from she was a young girl (Virginia Tech Objectivist Club).
Objectivism is fully secular and absolutist, therefore, it is neither liberal nor conservative nor anywhere in between its is completely a different approach. It recognizes and upholds the secular source and nature of moral principles and the secular moral foundations of a fully free and civilized society. Objectivism holds that there is no greater moral goal than achieving happiness, however, one cannot achieve happiness by wish or whim (Thomas, 2010). Thus, Objectivism rejects the idea that reality is ultimately determined by personal opinion or social convention or divine decree.
Ayn Rand’s Background
Ayn Rand was a famous Russian-American novelist, philosopher and screenwriter. She was born as Alisa Zinov;yevna Rosenbaum in Saint Petersburg in early twentieth century into an affluent Jewish family, she was on February 2, 1905. Her father, Zinovy Zakharovich Rosenbaum, was the owner of a pharmacy. Well-read and interested particularly in politics, he had aspired to be a writer. Her mother’s name was Anna Borisovna (née Kaplan), she was a language teacher and held salons in her home, where she hosted intellectual discussions. Rand was eldest of her parents’ three daughters. Rand considered the spread of ideas to be the most important thing a person could do.
At age six she taught herself to read and two years later discovered her first fictional hero in a French magazine for children, thus capturing the heroic vision which sustained her throughout her life. At the age of nine she decided to make fiction writing her career. Thoroughly opposed to the mysticism and collectivism of Russian culture, she thought of herself as a European writer, especially after encountering Victor Hugo, the writer she most admired.
In Saint Petersburg in 1917 when the February Revolution erupted, 12-year-old Alisa favoured Alexander Kerensky over Tsar Nicholas II. However, as the October Revolution started later in the year, their family life was totally disrupted. As the Bolsheviks seized power, her father’s business was confiscated and they had to flee to the Crimea, where they tried to start afresh. Four years later, as Alisa graduated from high school at the age of 16, the family returned to Saint Petersburg, then renamed as Petrograd.
When her family left the Crimea, she entered the University of Petrograd to study philosophy and history. Graduating in 1924, she experienced the disintegration of free inquiry and the takeover of the university by communist. Amidst the increasingly dull experiences, she could find joy in Western films and plays. Long an admirer of cinema, she entered the State Institute for Cinema Arts in 1924 to study screenwriting graduating from there in 1925. Sometime now, she also decided on her pseudonym, Ayn Rand.
Never an admirer of communism, she became enthusiastic about America's notion of individual freedom. Therefore, when she received invitation from her relatives in America, she decided to move there. Initially her visit was intended to be a short one but in her mind she knew that she was leaving her homeland forever. She left Russia on January 17, 1926. After several stops in different western European cities, Rand arrived in New York City on February 19, 1926 and was mesmerized by the Manhattan skyline. She visited Hollywood and on second day Cecil B. DeMille saw her standing at the gate of his studio, offered her a ride to the set of his movie The King of Kings, and gave her a job, first as an extra, then as a script reader. During the next week at the studio, she met an actor, Frank O’Connor, whom she married in 1929; they were married until his death fifty years later.
Rand became a permanent US resident in July 1929 and an American citizen on March 3, 1931. Meanwhile she began working first as a script reader and then a junior scriptwriter for DeMille. Success still eluded her and she kept on doing odd jobs to sustain her writing.
Rand returned to Hollywood in late 1943 to write the screenplay for The Fountainhead, but wartime restrictions delayed production until 1948. Working part time as a screenwriter for Hal Wallis Productions, she began her major novel, Atlas Shrugged, in 1946. She moved back to New York City in 1951 and devoted herself full time to the completion of Atlas Shrugged. Many critics consider Rand’s 1957 novel, ‘Atlas Shrugged’, to be her most important work. It is her longest novel and comprises romance, mystery and even an element of science fiction. The novel also provided a glimpse into her philosophy of Objectivism.
In this novel her unique philosophy was depicted in an intellectual mystery story that integrated ethics, metaphysics, epistemology, politics, economics and sex. Although she considered herself primarily a fiction writer, Rand realized that in order to create heroic fictional characters, she had to identify the philosophic principles which make such individuals possibilities. Rand became Prometheus Award Hall of Fame inductee twice. In 1983, she became co-inaugural inductee for her 1957 work ‘Atlas Shrugged’ and later in 1987 for ‘Anthem’.
Ayn Rand wrote and lectured on her philosophy; Objectivism, which she characterized as “a philosophy for living on earth.” She published and edited her own periodicals from 1962 to 1976. Ayn Rand died on March 6, 1982, in her New York City apartment.
The information for Ayn Rand’s Biography was taken from Virginia Tech Objectivist Club, Micael Beliner Ayn Rand: An Intellectual/Professional Biography and Ayn Biography.
The Development of Objectivism
Objectivism as a formal discipline began with Ayn Rand, her showed more than a passing familiarity with the great philosophers of ancient Western civilization. The ancient philosopher she respected the most was Aristotle. Objectivism attempts to be a ;unified theory of everything worth thinking about, it addresses prominent issues in metaphysics, epistemology, ethics, political philosophy and aesthetics.
According to www.aynrand.org objectivism, begins by embracing the basic fact that existence exists. Reality is, and in the quest to live we must discover reality’s nature and learn to act successfully in it. In Rand’s philosophy, reality is not to be rewritten or escaped, but sincerely and proudly faced. One of her favorite sayings is Francis Bacon’s: “Nature, to be commanded, must be obeyed.”
Rand lived through the Russian Bolshevik Revolution and her experiences with communism led her to develop her unique philosophy. Her experiences with communism and her atheism inform her idea that man in an end in himself, not a means to anyone else’s end. Rand described Objectivism as “a philosophy for living on earth.” The reason why it is a philosophy for living on Earth is that its all its principles are derived from the observable facts of reality and the demonstrable requirements of human life and happiness. Objectivism holds different views which includes: view of the nature of reality, of man’s means of knowledge, of man’s nature and means of survival, of a proper morality, of a proper social system and of the nature and value of art.
Morally, Objectivism advocates the virtues of rational self-interest; virtues such as independent thinking, productiveness, justice, honesty, and self-responsibility. Culturally, the theory advocates scientific advancement, industrial progress, objective as opposed to “progressive” or faith-based education, romantic art and predominantly reverence for the faculty that makes all such values possible. Politically, the theory advocates for a pure, laissez-faire capitalism, which means the social system of individual rights and strictly limited government; along with the whole moral and philosophical structure on which it depends. (The Objective Standard, 2018)
There are five branches of objectivism, they are Metaphysics, Epistemology, Ethics, Politics and Aesthetics. For metaphysics Rand agrees with Naturalism in that reality is observable and measurable. According to her theory there is one reality. She disagrees with Modernism in that Modernists believe in Subjective Reality, the idea that humans “create” their own reality through their perceptions. Rand says that our only ability is to perceive reality, not create it, “facts are facts” This believe precludes makes impossible a belief in the supernatural. Metaphysics is also broken down into smaller units to understand reality, Existence, Identity, Corollary (Causal Realism) and Consciousness. As it relates to epistemology Rand agrees with the Enlightenment that we should use reason to achieve our goals. She holds that reason is man’s highest virtue (Virginia Tech Objectivist Club)
Other ways of “knowing what we know” is through faith, tradition, and intuition, none of which she would deem valid methods of “knowing.” This branch focuses on reason; the faculty that identifies and integrates the material provided by man's senses. It states that senses are valid, self-evident, rejection of faith, mysticism, the true, the false and the arbitrary, deduction and induction and the concept formation.
According to https://www.philosophybasics.com/branch_objectivism.html ethical objectivism or moral objectivism holds that the truth or falsity of moral judgments does not depend upon the beliefs or feelings of any person or group of persons, and that they describe a mind-independent reality. This indicates that certain acts are objectively right or wrong, independent of human opinion. Rand believes that people act upon their self-interest and that one should sacrifice himself for others or sacrifice others for himself. This idea would rule out any altruistic acts. Rand would think that someone would foolish to spend their life in the service of others. For ethics, she coined her philosophy on the following as she believe they were necessary; Naturalistic, Mutualism, not predation, Rejection of altruism, Duty to neither god nor society. She believed that Well-being cannot be attained by force.
As it relates politics, objectivism recognizes that in order to take life-promoting action, a person must be free to do so; they must be free to act on the judgment of their mind, and his or her basic means of living. The only thing that can stop people from doing so is other people, and the only way they can stop themselves is by means of physical force. Thus, in order to live peacefully together in a society; in order to live together as civilized beings, rather than as barbarians; people must refrain from using physical force against one another (The Objective Standard, 2018). This fact gives rise to the principle of individual rights, which is the principle of egoism applied to politics. Rand believes that capitalism is the only form of government that is free from violence and because people are fully free to act on their own judgment they will produce, keep, use and dispose of their own property as they see fit. Rand believes the only thing they are not “free” to do is to violate the rights of others.
In a capitalist society, individual rights cannot legally be violated by anyone. People can work as hard as they need to in order to get what they need. Capitalism is a system that respects and protects individual rights, in other words is the only system that institutionalizes the requirements of human life in a social context. In a laissez-faire society, if people want to deal with one another, they may do so only on voluntary terms, by free agreement. Rand was a libertarian before it had a name, she holds the belief that the “only” purpose of government should be to protect people’s right to property. She is of the view that a police force and military capable of defending men against those who would hurt them in order to take their possessions.
Rand is a Romantic in that her heroes portray man “as he could/should be” and she is a Realist in the sense that she places her heroes in the contemporary. They would have to deal with the real problems of today’s world. Objectivism holds that art is a requirement of human life and happiness. She believes that art is a selective re-creation of reality according to an artist’s deepest, most fundamental convictions such as his or her views of the nature of the universe, the nature of man, what is knowable, what matters most and what is possible.
According the Rand, art is to give physical form to such profound abstractions, to make them concrete and observable and thereby to provide people with a perceptual representation of a particular idea or worldview. This enables individuals to examine and explore the idea as a physical reality and thus to better understand what it means in practice. She is of the view that art provides spiritual guidance for people and fuel for living and achieving goals. Like everything in the world, art is something specific; thus, it is both knowable and definable and like everything man-made, it is properly judged as good or bad by the standard of the requirements of human life on earth.
Art is not the emotional spewing of irrational impulses according to Rand, but it however a selective recreation of reality. A person understanding of reality is only by means of reason and the creation of art requires the intense use of this faculty. Thus it requires thought, concentration, mental connections and the transformation of highly abstract concepts and values into the material of perceptual reality through the created piece. Rand and her followers rejects the idea that, within the range of what is art, no objective criteria exist for judging certain works as better than others. Like every legitimate value, a work of art, whether a painting, sculpture, novel, movie, or symphony; is a value precisely to the extent that it serves some requirement of a rational being’s life (The Objectivist Standard, 2018).
Objectivism versus Constructivism
Ayn Rand’s theory of Objectivism defines human epistemology as both caused and free at the same time, saying that we have volition to choose what concepts we define and how we define them, but these decisions are bound to what actually exists. Constructivism avoids the key issues of metaphysics’ role in epistemology and the motor of epistemology; volition completely and turns the human into a fallible data processing machine (Lahti, 2016).
Tabola (2011) states that the general term objectivism refers to the belief that virtually all humans understand reality (or can understand reality) in the same manner. In other words, the color blue, the flavor of chocolate and the value of money are the same to every person. Constructivism is based on the belief that each of us constructs a different perception of reality (or information or morality, etc.) based on our own life experience. According to most social scientists, individual perceptions of reality are primarily influenced by our observation of and interaction with other people. Consequently, they say that “reality is socially constructed.”
Objectivism is a view of the nature of knowledge and what it means to know something. In this view, the mind is an instantiation of a computer and it manipulates symbols in the same way. People use these symbols to acquire meaning when an external and independent reality as a guide for their interactions in the world. Knowledge, therefore is some entity existing independent of the mind of individuals and is transferred "inside". Cognition is believed to be the rule-based manipulation of these symbols. These philosophers believed that the external world is mind independent. Constructivism claims that reality is constructed by the knower based upon mental activity (Bednar, Cunningham, Duffy and Perry, 1991)
People are perceivers and interpreters of their own reality, which they construct their own reality through engaging in those mental activities. Constructivists believed that thinking is grounded in perception of physical and social experiences, which can only be comprehended by the mind, which is a contrast to the objectivists view. What the mind produces are mental models that explain to the knower what he or she has perceived and that we all conceive of the external reality somewhat differently, based on our unique set of experiences with the world and our beliefs about them (Jonassen, 1991).
Many constructivist theorists subscribe to the ideas of Vygotsky about the social negotiation of meaning; which suggest that learners test their own understandings against those of others, notably those of teachers or more advanced peers. The objectivist approach focuses on identifying the entities, relations, and attributes that the learner must ‘know’ however, the constructivist approach to identifying learning goals emphasized learning in context. The theory of constructivism stems from the field of cognitive science, particularly from the works of Jean Piaget, Lev Vygotsky (as aforementioned), Jerome Bruner, Howard Gardner and Nelson Goodman. It describes the development of knowledge through learning as a process of active construction of meanings in relation to the context and environment in which the learning takes place. A learner’s understanding of a subject is embedded in the experience of that individual. (Nunes and McPherson, 2013).
Theorists who write in the constructivist views often differ in their ideas with the epistemological assumptions of the objectivist ideologies and teachings. Objectivism is the view that knowledge of the world comes about through an individual;s experience of it and as this experience grows and gets deeper then knowledge is represented in the individual;s mind as an ever-closer approximation of how the world really is. Therefore, knowledge is thought to exist independently of learners and learning consists of transferring that knowledge from outside to inside the learner.
Constructivist theory is based on the assumption that knowledge is constructed by learners as they attempt to make sense of their experiences which is different from the views that the objectivist theory upholds. Learners, therefore, are not empty vessels waiting to be filled, but rather active organisms seeking meaning. In the constructivist view, they have constructed a perfectly viable model, which accounts well for their own experience.
The constructivist school of thought holds that “knowledge of the world is not a simple reflection of what there is, but a set of social artifacts; a reflection of what we make of what is there”. In other words, there is a meaning that learners attach to newly acquired knowledge and information in association with experiences of the environment in which the they are a part.
Basic constructivism relies on the use of prior knowledge in the construction of new meanings. Previously constructed structures of knowledge are retrieved and utilised as discrete packets for the development of new knowledge structures. Spiro et al cited in Nunes and McPherson (2003). They argue that a new element of the constructive process must be added to those that are already recognised. That new element is the use of pre-existing knowledge in the active construction of new knowledge. The pre-existing knowledge is brought together from different areas of understanding and reassembled into knowledge structures that can be used to interpret and build (construct) new meanings from the new situation presented. This process of knowledge construction by imposing meaning to learning experiences.
According to the objectivist view, concepts are considered external to the learner and received through a process of communication. This process focuses on behaviour and its modifications, rather than on cognitive or mental processes that facilitate learning (e.g. constructing, reflecting or planning).This objectivist view of learning prevails even today in many universities and was developed and defended by the behaviourist school of thought (Nunes and McPherson, 2003). Objectivist theorists suggest that knowledge exist independently of the individual, that is it is separate from the individual’s experience. They also share that learning occur with an observable change and that learning is rote and sequential. Objectivist followers believe that learning is testable and qualifiable and that stimulus or response facilitate learning.
Objectivism in Pedagogy
Objectivism has dominated the field of education for several years. Most of the traditional approaches to learning and teaching that are based on behavioristic and cognitive theories, share philosophical assumptions that are fundamental in objectivism. The methods used in traditional classrooms leave room to conclude that they are based on objectivist theories. The long tradition of an objectivist approach in education has its roots in Taylor's ideas on scientific management (Callahan, 1962). The mechanisms of scientific management, such as standardization and task analysis, were developed to ensure the most efficient production in business and industry. The standardization mechanisms attempted to ensure that all jobs and products matched the objectively and scientifically identified standards (Vrassidas, 2000).
The idea of objectivism in education is to focus on objective, basic knowledge early on. This gives children the foundation to identify what they are interested in and can specialize their future education. Reading and math are quite objective. Following on from them, physics, biology, chemistry, and other derivatives. These objective subjects would then be presented purely based on fact. There would be no social agenda included. They are also relevant to the age level. In the objectivism classroom children would be taught the tools to objectively evaluate and understand their environment, not just memorize and regurgitate them on a test (Thom, 2017).
Objectivism holds that one reality exists independent of anyone perceiving it, humankind is capable of knowing this reality only by the faculty of reason, and objective knowledge and truth is possible” (Peikoff 1993). This definition states that we know reality by virtue of reason, What constructivists argue is that the basis for accepting what is real and independent of our cognitions is dependent upon social consensus rather than through our senses (Elkind, 2004). The only thing that the philosophies of objectivism and constructivism have in common is the conviction that there is a reality apart from the individual. Yet, they offer incompatible answers to the question of epistemology on the human capacity for understanding. While from a constructivist point of view, a human being constructs his own reality, objectivists say that human experiences play only a minor role in structuring the world, as “meaning is something that exists in the world quite aside from experience” (Duffe/Jonassen 2, Ayn Rand Institute Online). Rand holds that the symbol-theoretical copy theory, naive realism and the Philosophy of Common Sense are all based on the existence of an objective reality that is to be perceived and not, as constructivists claim, created. (Ayn Rand Institute Online).
In the objectivist classroom a fundamental aspect is interaction, interaction between teacher and students and students and students. Interaction is one of the most important components of any learning experience (Dewey, 1938; Vygotsky, 1978). Dewey (1938) argued that education is based on the interaction of an individual’s external and internal conditions. Interaction and the situation during which one experiences the world cannot be separated because the context of interaction is provided by the situation (Vrasidas, 2000). Ayn Rand advocates the philosophy of objectivism, yet her considerations on how knowledge is transferred do not lead to the traditional teaching method. She believes that the student show construct their own meaning from what is taught to them.
The teacher transmits his knowledge of the subject whatever he or deems necessary as an expert to a less educated group of students, he or she is the one who is primarily active during the teaching and learning process. In the objectivist classroom their learning progress is examined regularly in tests designed by the teacher. This method is based on the assumption that it is possible for the teacher to determine what his students should know. The teacher assumes that the goals he or she sets can be achieved. An objectivist educator believes that there is one true and correct reality, which we can come to know following the objective methods of science. They believe that by studying the world we can identify its structure and entities with their properties and relations, which we can then represent, using theoretical models and abstract symbols (Vrasisdas, 2000).
The Student (Learner)
Behaviorists believe that “learning is accomplished when a proper response is demonstrated following the presentation of a specific environmental stimulus. Behaviorism contents that responses that are followed by reinforcement are more likely to recur in the future” (Ertmer ; Newby, 1993, p. 55 cited in Salkind and Vleet, 2005). The learner follows a linear, structured and programmed approached (Byrd and Conard, 2009). The students acquire the knowledge offered without communicating with each other. Their learning progress is examined regularly in tests designed by the teacher.
Content, Context and Assessment
In the objectivist classroom the learning content is recall, complex tasks are broken down into smaller more manageable tasks that can be mastered separately. There is a prescribed sequence for learning and the students progress through skill sets. The use of cues, shaping and practices to ascertain different reponses from students. Objectivists see “learning primarily as the acquisition and strengthening of responses (Wilson & Myers, 2000, p. 60). Assessment usually involves a test to see if learners can perform a skill (Duffy & Cunningham, 1996, p. 186 cited in Salkind and Vleet, 2005). The learning activity is competitive. Students compete against the clock and against other students. Learning outcomes are measurable behaviours and as such they are measured. Instruction is structured around the presentation of the target stimulus and the provision of opportunities for the learner to practice making the proper response. The assessment is predetermined and the subjective evaluation is predefined with right and wrong answers.
Objectivism is the opposite of non-trivial constructivism, objectivism is a view of the nature of knowledge and what it means to know something. In this view, the mind is an instantiation of a computer, manipulating symbols in the same way. Constructivism claims that reality is constructed by the “knower” based upon mental activity. Humans perceive, interpret and construct their own reality through engaging in those mental activities. They believed that thinking is grounded in perception of physical and social experiences, which can only be comprehended by the mind.
An essential concept in the constructivist view is that learning always takes place in a context. Constructivists believe that the goal of instruction is “not the acquisition of a specific, well-defined bit of content, but rather the ability to learn in a content domain. Learning to learn including the ability to ask questions, evaluate one’s strategies, and develop answers to questions in the content domain and that “is the goal”. Contrary to this, the objectivists believes that instructional goals are to be imposed and learners move through the skill levels by demonstrating acquisition of skills.
As an educator for more than five years I still hold the view that though the methods of the objectivism tend to be traditional they still hold a place in my classroom. In the teaching and learning process both objectivism and constructivism is employed in my classroom. There are evidence that the traditional method of teaching advocated by objectivist is still being used in the twenty-first century classroom especially in higher education. Depending on the content or learning goals/objectives the different approaches will be used accordingly. As aforementioned Rand believed that the “traditional” method alone is not good enough I too share then same sentiment, hence the collaboration on non-traditional and traditional approaches in my daily teaching and learning process.
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