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WESTSIDE WATCH

Essay Contest Keeps Rand's Work on Minds of Students

October 02, 1994

High school students struggling with Ayn Rand's "The Fountainhead" can thank a Marina del Rey institute for helping to keep the 51-year-old, 700-page philosophical novel in the public consciousness.

Since 1985, the Ayn Rand Institute has sought to promote the novel and Rand's other works through a speakers' bureau and the distribution of videos, readings and other material to book clubs and other devotees of the champion of individualism.

Last week, the institute began its 10th annual high school essay contest. About 486,000 flyers for the "Fountainhead" contest and its sister contest on Rand's novelette "Anthem" will be mailed to 254,000 educators, including all high school English teachers, counselors and librarians in the United States and Canada.

"The purpose of the essay contest is to introduce young people to crucial issues at a critical time in their lives," said Michael S. Berliner, executive director of the Ayn Rand Institute, philosopher and former department chairman at Cal State Northridge.

The response to the essay contests is but one indicator of the continuing interest in Ayn Rand, who lived in Hollywood and died in 1982 at age 77. "The Fountainhead" still sells more than 100,000 copies each year. Rand study groups have sprouted up at dozens of colleges across the country.

A survey conducted for the Library of Congress and the Book-of-the-Month Club ranked Rand's "Atlas Shrugged" in second place, behind the Bible, on a list of "books that made a difference" in the lives of people.

The first-place winner gets $5,000. Winners will be announced later this year.

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BY THE NUMBERS: Republicans hope a backlash against Democratic leadership helps Rancho Palos Verdes Councilwoman Susan Brooks unseat Rep. Jane Harman (D-Rolling Hills).

But registration in the 36th Congressional District so far has not changed much since 1992, when Harman defeated Republican Joan Milke Flores. As of Sept. 8, 42.6% of the voters were registered Democrats and 42.4% Republicans. The deadline to register is Oct. 11.

Democrats also have widened their registration lead in an Assembly district where registration was almost evenly split two years ago.

In the 53rd Assembly District, 43.3% of the voters are registered Democrats and 40.9% Republicans. There, first-term Assemblywoman Debra Bowen (D-Marina del Rey) faces insurance agent Julian Sirull.

Based on past trends, political analysts say, Republicans are more likely to go to the polls, which means their party still can enjoy an edge in districts where they are slightly outnumbered.

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THEY MEET, AT LAST: For politicos, Sunday is the day for their candidates to shine--or say something stupid.

Candidates in three races will meet at a League of Women Voters Forum at the Torrance Cultural Arts Center. Among the faceoffs: Bowen and Sirull at 1 p.m.; State Sen. Ralph Dills (D-El Segundo), who represents Marina del Rey, and David Barrett Cohen at 2 p.m., and Brooks and Harman at 3 p.m.

The candidates won't be debating one on one. Instead, audience members will be able to submit questions to a moderator, who will choose which ones to pose to the candidates.

The event's other sponsors are the American Assn. of University Women, Torrance Branch, and the Torrance Council of PTAs.

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