Bookshelf, Learning

Educated – A Different Perspective

Tara Westover’s Book Educated: A Memoir has been named on so many different Best of Lists in 2018. Even Bill Gates raved about Tara Westover’s story! So naturally, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it!

I was definitely not disappointed in picking up this book! It was one that was difficult to put down!

The way the book was written, although riveting, was a bit of a difficult read. However, it is broken up into small bite-sized chapters which makes it easier to get through.

Tara Westover’s story is unique because it is so different than the family background you hear about in a “normal” family.

For us, growing up, education was a priority, hospitals were the first place we were rushed to if we were sick, and the government was certainly was not the enemy.

Her story is of a girl growing up in a survivalist family, youngest of seven in Idaho. Tara’s family lived off the grid, and she didn’t even have a birth certificate. School was definitely not a priority, and hospitals were not a place to go when you needed medical attention. Her journey to self-discovery and breaking free of her family’s ideology.

I found it interesting to read about a whole new perspective on life. How there are people who constantly strive to distance themselves from institutions.

But at the same time, in many ways, you can relate to the many complexities in life, and how one’s self evolves, as a result of the many experiences they have.

An inspiring tale – a thirst to learn

“My life was narrated for me by others. Their voices were forceful, emphatic, absolute. It had never occurred to me that my voice might be as strong as theirs.” 

― Tara Westover, Educated

What struck me the most, was how eloquent Westover’s writing was, and how articulate she is in telling her story. That level of writing can be hard for those of us who’ve grown up with access to books and formal education.

It was inspirational how she taught herself in many ways to learn, and learning through whatever means possible, whether through books, or the experience of life. Those survival skills that she learned at home, had to have played a part in how she’s achieved so much in her own life.

Overall, this book evokes many emotions and is a powerful story that I’m glad she’s shared. 

I read this book earlier in January of this year. Since then I’ve had a chance to reflect on the book. This book made me think about so many different perspectives about the book, and Tara’s story.

The Optimistic View

“The skill I was learning was a crucial one, the patience to read things I could not yet understand.”

― Tara Westover, Educated

So the optimist in me is feeling extremely inspired after reading this book. It’s amazing how much Westover has achieved despite not being given “an equal opportunity”. It makes you feel like anything is possible.

It is a story that ultimately leaves you feeling good. She has a difficult childhood. Being isolated from the rest of society is difficult, especially when later in life, you want to integrate! Growing up in a “normal” way, I still felt that school and university was an adjustment. Working is an adjustment. But Tara braves through it, and ultimately makes a life for her self, discovering her passion for learning, and fulfilling her curiosity about the world!

The memoir leaves you feeling that anything is attainable – as long as you work towards it. Part of her story did seem like luck, or that she stumbled upon professors who wanted to help her. But ultimately, she did work hard to satisfy her curiosity.

The Skeptic View

Of course, after I read the book I felt the need to Google her and the story. That was the skeptic in me.

This book is a memoir, but it reads more like a riveting tale of self-discovery.

There’s a lot about the story that makes me question how someone from such a background was able to get to such a level.

We hear so much about equal opportunity, and that conversation is about people who at least have access to education and health care. And it is still very difficult to become a “success”.

Without access to a lot of institutions, Tara’s family has seen a lot of success. Three out of seven of the children got their Ph.D., and Tara’s mother and father run a successful naturopathic business. It makes you wonder how a family constantly trying to get away from institutions is able to run such a successful business.

The Empathetic view

“Curiosity is a luxury for the financially secure.”

― Tara Westover, Educated

Another perspective this book made me reflect on is how divided our society has become. Maybe it has always been this way, but the divide doesn’t seem to be getting better.

Tara’s family has views the world, that are different from where she ultimately got her education. Questioning her family’s rigid ideology got her to where she is today. Realizing for example, that she didn’t have to blindly believe that taking medicine was evil.

I started to question what education means. Is it a way to gather or knowledge? Or do we use it as a means of division in our society?

We judge people based on their political views, their education levels, their income, and sometimes even their background. We tend to live in our bubbles and hang out with like-minded people, who share similar world views. It is a real problem and one that you’d think education could help solve!

Although, as a society, we’ve become more educated, we haven’t seen an increase in empathy. We don’t want to listen to a perspective that does not agree with ours, whether that’s reflected in how we consume media, who we follow on Twitter, or the people who we choose to socialize with.

The Echo Chamber

What really struck me while reading this book, is the idea that education can be an echo chamber if we don’t use the tool wisely.

This problem can only be solved if we consider education to be a tool for knowledge and understanding, fulfilling our curiosity. Education will not help solve the problem if we ultimately use it as a means to divide and classify society based on education levels.

Today, what does it mean to be educated? Education can be so much more than the degree you receive from school. There’s so much knowledge out there today, between formal education, or more informal means like YouTube videos, podcasts, and online courses. People who want to share their knowledge have a massive platform through the internet. That can also be a form of education; a way to satisfy one’s curiosity and think for ourselves.

It’s rare for us to break out of our usual patterns, and learn about opposing viewpoints, or listen to perspectives we don’t agree with.

Have you read this book? Comment and let me know what your thought fo the book!

Cheers,

Anum

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  1. […] A book review one of the more inspirational books I’ve read – Educated by Tara Westover […]

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