Poverty is among the factors that continue to deny millions of Americans access to education today. Across the nation, there are schools that are understaffed and under-resourced. It is therefore not surprising that student outcomes in these schools are disappointingly poor. However, even in the face of hardship, there are some students who manage to excel. Through her memoir Educated, Tara Westover makes it clear that poverty and social backwardness need not hold students back and that success is possible even in adversity.
Westover dedicated the memoir to exploring her experiences as part of the fundamentalist Mormon community. She offers sobering details about the reality of religious fundamentalism and the damage that it can cause. Westover gives special focus to her father, a Mormon prophet who predicts the end of the world. Her father is essentially a representation of the devastation that can result from religious extremism. Fundamental beliefs can encourage dangerous practices as Westover indicates in the memoir.
While Westover focuses on the threat of religious fundamentalism, she also sheds light on the struggles that women endure. She helps readers to understand that while the US has made remarkable progress in promoting women liberation, there are many women who remain trapped. Westover’s mother is essentially a model for the women who are yet to find empowerment. She is a victim of a system that punishes deviance and demands total compliance. The women’s liberation and empowerment movement would find the memoir to be enlightening.
It appears that when she wrote the memoir, Westover aimed to underscore the need for women empowerment. As suggested above, her mother is mostly subservient and oppressed. However, her mother also represents rebellion and a quest for freedom. She works as a midwife, a profession that stands in violation of Mormon standards and values. Westover’s mothers boldness indicates that empowerment and liberation can only occur through courage and rejecting an outdated system that keeps women shackled.
Whereas Educated tackles the issue of empowerment, it also places emphasis on the deleterious impacts of poverty. Westover describes her childhood as a period defined by abject poverty and lack. Her entire community also struggles with poverty. For instance, Westover notes that the few cars in the community are old and unreliable. For many in the community, poor health outcomes are a daily struggle. This community mirrors the experiences of millions of Americans who wallow in poverty and see no escape from their hardship.
Westover suggests that systemic inequalities are partly to blame for the poverty and hardship that she endured. However, she also blames her community’s beliefs and practices for the difficulties that its members face. For instance, she notes that the poor health is the result of her community’s rejection of conventional medicine. It is unfortunate that despite the proven effectiveness of conventional medicine, there are many communities that continue to hold on to dangerous ideas regarding human health. More should be done to sensitize these communities.
While reading Educated, one is confronted with the reality of the human struggle. In addition to such issues as poverty and limited access to health care, the memoir also addresses the violence that girls and women face. For example, Westover describes an incident when her brother assaulted her for associating with a boy. This experience captures the difficulties that women continue to face in their quest to find liberation and to reclaim their sexuality. The fact Westover survived these struggles should leave readers hopeful.
It is common for poverty-ravaged communities to promote education as a tool for tackling poverty. Unfortunately, as Westover tells her readers, this was not the case with her community. She describes her struggles to obtain an education. She laments that her community held her back and discouraged her efforts. In fact, she goes as far as accusing the community of betraying her. Westover’s experiences echo those of many girls around the world who are unable to acquire education. Her courage should inspire girls and women to remain committed.
The title of Westover’s memoir offers readers a glimpse into the essence of this book. This title denotes the self-discipline and commitment that those who desperately wish to get an education must possess. Westover had no proper education. This did not prevent her from working tirelessly to achieve enlightenment through education. She graduated from Cambridge with a PhD. This attainment is indeed remarkable given that Westover received little support. She is truly an inspiration.
Westover’s memoir is indeed inspiring and heart-warming. However, it does not present any real insight for those who grapple with the same struggle that Westover endured. For instance, she does not offer any practical proposals for excelling in school in the face of poverty. Students who do not enjoy the support or love of their families may also struggle to achieve the same success that Westover accomplished.
Despite its failings, Educated is a timely and highly relevant text. It can indeed inform the development of policy. For example, the book could form the basis of interventions designed to rescue children in communities that pose a danger to their health and wellbeing. Furthermore, policymakers could use to the book to design educational strategies to target children in under-served communities. The memoir highlights the role that literature can play in solving some of the most pressing real world problems of today.
In closing, Westover must have known that her book would inspire and move. This is the effect that it actually has on whoever picks up this book. The book receives a resounding endorsement. Anyone who reads should expect nourishment and for their ideas of being a girl in a Mormon community to be challenged. Furthermore, the book enlightens readers on the power of education to transform communities and redeem battered souls.