Rushing homework, long lectures by teachers droning on and on and waking up at 6am to catch the school bus. Sounds familiar? Most of us have gone through (or are going through) this normal routine of education.
But what if this norm were displaced? What if you lived a life isolated from the rest of the world, without education, doctors and proof of your existence?
Educated by Tara Westover
For Tara Westover, this was her life for 17 years. I jumped at the chance to finally read her popular memoir Educated, and the appalling things she faced made me finish the book within a day to find out how her story ends. She had no birth certificate, no school or medical records. Her parents believed in that the End of Days was coming and kept their entire family in their mountain home in Idaho. Her father didn’t believe in schools or doctors and made his children work in the family junkyard, putting them in unnecessarily dangerous situations.
Her father grew more radical over the years, calling education a “devil’s scheme” to take his children away. Her brother would also abuse and shame her using words like “whore” and “slut”. He grew increasingly violent, pushing her head into the toilet bowl and threatening to kill her.
Time and time again she would have to pull herself out of these dangerous situations. Finally, she decided it was enough. To escape, she studied independently and amazingly passed a required college entrance test. Although she struggled in her first year at Brigham Young College, she steadily improved and managed to get a place to study her masters in Cambridge. She even had a stint in Harvard and completed her doctorate in Cambridge.
But how did she get in with only a few years of education? My guess: the experiences she went through made her mature beyond her years and resilient in the midst of challenges. Starved of education, she was eager to learn and had a voracious appetite for books. Also, the perspective she had on life was so different from her peers, giving her a unique writing style. Slowly, she discovered that not everything her father told her was true. His paranoia had painted certain events in a different light. But her education and reading uncovered her eyes and gave her feet to stand on.
Her touching story made me reflect on how many times I’ve taken my own education for granted and to treasure what I have.