On Sunday I met with Tara Westover and heard her talk at the Cambridge Literary Festival about her life and recent memoir Educated.
Educated tells Tara’s story of growing up in rural Idaho without formal education and her journey from there to being awarded a PhD in History from Cambridge University. She describes themes of what many would call neglect and abuse in her childhood.
Having previously read Educated, one of the things that struck upon hearing Tara speak was that her childhood was also an important part of her education, her childhood was not simply something to survive or overcome.
Perhaps because of what might be considered a non-traditional route to studying at University (she has also studied at Brigham Young and Harvard) Tara pointed out the ideological consensus that can exist in formal education. That unknowingly many of us can end up believing similar things, without having this questioned. And that bringing things into question, through differing views and experiences, can be healthy.
Tara’s story highlights the intergenerational effects of mental illness, in her book and in person. Tara describes her belief that her father was suffering with bipolar or similar that made him paranoid about others trying to control him, such as formal healthcare and education. Consequently, her father refused to allow his children access to healthcare and education. Father’s difficulties in turn having effects upon his children, and so on.
Seeing Tara talk, meeting with her one-to-one and reading about her life I am reminded of Carl Rogers’ thoughts about what he called ‘the actualising tendency‘. The idea that people (organisms) will struggle with adversity to become who they are capable of becoming. Tara Westover’s life and memoir ‘Educated’ is an inspiration.
- Westover, T. (2018). Educated. London: Hutchinson.
- Rogers, C. R. (1963). Actualizing tendency in relation to “Motives” and to consciousness. In M. R. Jones (Ed.), Nebraska symposium on motivation (pp. 1-24). Oxford, England: U. Nebraska Press.