Tara’s story is a powerful and unique one that can be read across disciplines. It reads like a classic in religious studies, psychology, sociology, education and history. It speaks to the beauty of the Liberal Arts which is well captured by the profound title, Educated. The story strikes as different from anything else I have read before. It’s not really a story of grass to grace, or of a minority individual’s becoming in spite of huddles. It is an American story that is usually unheard and untouched; perhaps because that side of America is deliberately hushed, or because of the tendency of humans to draw towards a single-story. I remember a few months back, I mentioned Mormonism in the midst of me fellow Nigerian Americans in Memphis, and they had no idea what I was talking about. Although, I have read briefly – thanks to Wikipedia – about the followers of the Christian sect of Jesus Christ and the Latter-Day Saints, this is my first time delving into a story from that side of America.
Overall, I think Tara was an honest and humble memoirist. She seemed objective as much as possible because as my anthropology professor, Dr. Saunders, once pontificated: full objectivity is nonsense. We’re all humans with biases. The best we can do is minimize as much as possible. That said, I am quite unsettled with Westover’s description of the accidents: Luke’s burning, Shawn bike accident, the family accidents while on the road, the father’s accident on the mountain. I believe the accidents really happened, but it begs the question how come – despite the horrific and ghastly nature of those accidents – there were no fatalities even as they did not go to the hospital? Something didn’t seem right. Take for an example, Shawn. He hit his head falling off a motorbike, his skull cracked, and yet with little medical attention and early discharge against doctor’s advice, he healed. And the father’s too. These are the parts I think were exaggerated.
I think she gave her family a fair shake as humanly possible. To do beyond this would be overcompensating and would actually betray the spirit of the book and cast a dent on the story itself. She mentioned events factually and gave footnotes for further explanation. She did not portray her family as evil or intentionally mean. She avoided fundamental attribution, and rather gave situational factors that impacted how her family saw things. One thing though that still bothers me is how “easily” she and her brother passed the SATs and then headed to obtain PhDs. I’m still trying to understand this. Either they are naturally brilliant via genes, or she unwittingly downplayed the literacy education they received from their mother.
The title of the book is so profound. College education transcends job preparation. It frees one in many ways; hence why it’s supposed to be the Liberal Arts, which interestingly was my associate’s degree major. It expands one’s view of life and makes one see things from many, different perspectives. My immediate brother and I and my uncle are the ones with college degrees and graduate degrees among our families in the United States, and just like Tara, Richard and Tyler, we’re the closest and more upwardly mobile. Our camaraderie is different from those with the rest of the family, and we see things in a different light. There was a time when there were major differences and issues in the family which kind of led to sides; and like Tara and her brothers, we with college education kind of chose a side. Education has led to me leaving my parent’s nest and moving across the country away from New York.
I think my greatest take from the book is the psychological aspect of it. Childhood and adolescence years are indeed formative years, and if those years are not closely guarded away from trauma and abuses of all sorts, emotional, verbal, sexual, physical and all, children are been set up for failure in life no matter how much they’re fed or educated. Identity problems, self-esteem and host of other psychological issue will later unveil itself in those individual lives which may render the proper clothing, feeding and education useless. So, parenting at these ages must be intentional on maximizing love, not in words, but in action, and managing and minimizing stress. One should not allow one’s commitment to certain worldview or desire to see one’s child or spouse in a good light to cloud one from protecting the children God has placed under one’s guardian. I know I sound like a preacher in this paragraph but it’s what it is since Tara’s father was the Lord says this, Lord says that. And that at the end of day his actions and inactions might have led to losing faith in that Lord he reverently and passionately professes.
In conclusion, I loved the book. It has been a while since a book had had such a powerful effect on my psychology. The first two parts of the book led me to dreams and nightmares that were regressive in nature. They weren’t anything scary or weird. I was just re-experiencing my childhood in those dreams in alternate ways. I dreamt about people from my childhood from a perspective I’ve never seen them from before. I would wake up and have a long reflection on the possibility of false memories and all. I couldn’t think of a better book to capture the title of this course – Power of Education. Education is so powerful it can grant solace to the emotionally wounded and ostracized. It can help someone make sense of the chaos that overshadowed one’s life. It can help contextualize why things are what they’re and what can be done. It can bring the low of lows into prestige and power. Education is powerful, it can bring a scrap picking, never attended young girl in the mountains of Idaho to Cambridge, and then inscribe her story in homes and libraries over the world.
Westover, T. (2018). Educated: A Memoir . New York: Penguin Random House .