Tara Westover’s memoir left me wondering how a life can truly change with the help of an education.
I loved going to school. Throughout my childhood, I was taught in elementary school how to read, how to write, and learned common facts and ideas about the world. This continued throughout junior high and high school. In college, I expanded my knowledge of the world around me, and chose to declare a major in English as my main (and only) focus. I grew up learning to love getting an education: I worked hard, tried to teach myself how to study, and (more so in college) what it means to have an education. After reading Educated, I’m thinking more about what it truly means to have grown up with an education.
Tara grew up with very little of that. At a young age, her father stopped her from going to school.
On the highway below, the school bus rolls past without stopping.pg. xiii, Prologue, Kindle edition
I am only seven, but I understand that it is this fact, more than any other, that makes my family different: we don’t go to school.
Tara grew up living in the mountains of Idaho, where she lived out her days running wild and free. As she got older, she worked for her father in the junkyard, then worked elsewhere. Her brother encouraged her to get her GED and go to college; he helped influence Tara into getting out of her parents house.
With a survivalist Mormon family, with an un-diagnosed bipolar father, and with a brother who became steadily more abusive, Tara sought getting an education as a way of getting out of her dysfunctional family.
At seventeen, Tara got into college, and later went on to Cambridge University. Tara first learned about the Holocaust in college, and had to further educate herself about topics that were common knowledge to her classmates. With the help of her mentors, she learned how to think critically, and how to navigate the world of academia. Her roommates helped her, too, mostly in teaching her personal hygiene, because her father didn’t believe in using soap to wash your hands after using the bathroom.
Educated has taught me how important it is to have an education. It’s important to have a basis of knowledge about the world around you, and to learn how to challenge yourself through higher learning by attending a university.
I’m so grateful to my family for having me pursue a college education. I not only learned how to write better, but how to be independent and live on my own. Without a higher education, I wouldn’t have my amazing English degree. I wouldn’t have made the close friends I now have because I went to college. If I had just gone into the workforce, I feel like I wouldn’t be as confident as I am now. I wouldn’t have the extra classes that I took under my belt.
For Tara, getting an education meant escaping her family, and becoming independent from her parents. While her education came at a cost, she still feels grateful that she went to college: “You could call this selfhood many things. Transformation. Metamorphosis. Falsity. Betrayal. I call it an education” (pg. 328, Kindle edition).
If you like reading memoirs, and if you like compelling non-fiction, Educated should be on your reading list.