My education started when I was 2 years old, when I first entered preschool. At 24, I am now on my way to complete my final year at university, working towards a Master’s degree.
Attending classes, completing assignments, discussing with students, working on my homework and reading academic articles has been part of my life for so long. I have never stopped to contemplate what a privilege this has been.
“Educated” is the autobiography of Tara Westover and was released in February 2018. It tells the story of her life, from growing up in a fundamentalist family to receiving a PhD from Cambridge University. Her father believes that the end of the world is approaching, so she spends her childhood stockpiling home-canned peaches and learning midwifery with her mother. In her world, the government is dangerous and hospitals are communists. There is no need for education, especially for women whose only purpose in life is to become mothers and wives.
In spite of everything, Tara teaches herself enough mathematics, grammar and science to enter Brigham Young University. Below is an excerpt of the book. She has just arrived and is taking her first exam:
“The morning of the exam, the professor instructed everyone to take out their blue books. I barely had time to wonder what a blue book was before everyone produced one from their bags. The motion was fluid, synchronized, as if they had practiced it. I was the only dancer on the stage who seemed to have missed rehearsal.”
Somehow, these are the lines that have stayed with me. Her non-existing education had not only prevented her to learn about her country’s history (she receives deadly stares during her first class on Western art because she does not understand the word “Holocaust”). She was also missing essential knowledge about how the world functions: how to get vaccinated at the hospital, what scholarship are available to a student like her, and how to pass a simple test in class.
Her memoir depicts the reality of fundamentalism in the United States, extreme poverty and illiteracy in the countryside and strong patriarchal structures within religious movements. It is a heartbreaking eye-opener for those, like me, who have been taking their education for granted. It shows how people are often cast aside, even in country supposedly “rich and developed”.
While portraying terror and suffering, “Educated” is also filled with hope. Her approach to learning and studying has taught me a lot. In the book, each time she hears a word that she cannot comprehend, she goes to the library and researches everything on the topic. I love the moment where she takes a coffee with two feminists students, then rushes to read writings of Betty Friedan, Germaine Greer and Simone de Beauvoir. Her never-ending desire for knowledge is truly inspiring.
I cannot recommend enough for you to read this book. It is beautifully written and it allows you to reflect on your own education. If you have read it, let me know your thoughts in the comments.
The book is available on Amazon here.