Jim Mahoney, former CEO of Battelle for Kids, recaps Tara Westover’s memoir. Read an excerpt from his Book Notes blog and register to hear Westover discuss her memoir on Thursday, September 6th at 3:30p.m. at Franklin Park Conservatory. Ohio State’s Crane Center for Early Childhood Research and Policy is hosting the free event through its Crane Lecture Series. Learn more about Jim—including his monthly Book Notes—on his website.
Book Notes: Tara Westover’s “Educated”
By Jim Mahoney
“The patience to read things I could not yet understand.” Tara Westover
Dad said “public school was a ploy by the government to lead children away from God”, while grandma added we should be in school and not “roaming the mountain like savages.” So begins the compelling memoir of Tara Westover, raised in the rural shadows of Buck’s Peak in Idaho. Tara was one of seven children who grew up with parents who hated the government and believed the highly publicized Weaver family had been murdered by them for not sending their children to school. Her mother was a midwife and the few dollars she earned from that along with her Dad’s metal scrapping provided for the family’s income.
Dad got rid of the telephone, stopped renewing his driver’s license, quit insuring their automobile, and began hoarding food for what he believed would soon be the end. Paranoia of the government and religious fundamentalism became developmental staples for the children growing up. Mother would tell people that the kids didn’t go to school so she could provide a better education at home, yet most days there was very little especially for the boys who accompanied their Dad to the junkyard to learn more practical skills. Then, Mom became more like Dad and by the time Tara was eight, school even at home, was largely over. Tara spent countless hours in junkyards jumping cars, looting in others, and imagining all sorts of things. She had, according to her, learned to read from her mother and read the Book of Mormon twice, wrote short essays for herself, and tried to read compilations that her Dad had kept of journals, speeches, etc. from early Mormons.
Think of that. A child with no formal education, scant attention at home for literacy or numeracy, and certainly no support to go to college wanted to attend. But she persisted. And finally at seventeen she was admitted to Brigham Young University, and later Trinity College in Cambridge. In 2010, she was a visiting fellow at Harvard. Her new selfhood is many things by her own admission. Transformation. Metamorphosis. Falsity. Betrayal. But it is best described by her as EDUCATED.