Connecting the Process of Learning and Self-Creation
Allison D. Webster
Tara Westover’s memoir Educated considers the role formal education plays in our lives, as well as the many ways we learn about the world through our experiences outside of school. Westover was not enrolled in formal schooling during her elementary years. Much of Educated focuses on what Westover learns outside of the classroom, whether exploring the Idaho mountainside where she was raised, or the lessons she is required to learn because of the challenging – sometimes traumatic – circumstances of her upbringing.
Many things add to her education during her early years away from formal schooling: all she learns about the natural world through her curiosity and explorations; beliefs about the world and its origins from formal religion and hearing the Bible; understanding relationships through the perspectives of friends and family members; mastering how to create and fix things in the world through working with her hands. Over the course of the story, she finds her way to formal education, ultimately earning a M.Phil from Trinity College in Cambridge.
So what does Westover conclude about what it means to be educated from all of her experiences? At the end of the book, she needs to make a decision between applying her father’s perspective or her own to a dilemma, and this choice results in a moment of epiphany. She writes, “Everything I had worked for, all my years of study, had been to purchase for myself this one privilege: to see and experience more truths than those given to me by my father, and to use those truths to construct my own mind. I had come to believe that the ability to evaluate many ideas, many histories, many points of view, was at the heart of what it means to self-create" (p. 304). In the end, she sees her education and the act of self-creation as one in the same.
The idea of “self-creation” being tied inextricably to education makes sense in a context like DCD. The process of educating a child shapes them in deep ways – from building their capacities and influencing their interests, to shaping the frameworks they will use to make sense of new ideas and reinforcing their expectations for trust and kindness – and DCD plays a role in it all. Because of our developmental focus, we are always looking for opportunities for children and adolescents to take on as much independence as possible and to contextualize what they learn so the process of learning and the process of self-creation become one and the same. While much of what Westover experiences in her book is difficult, Educated is a beautiful exploration of how much we can learn when we are open to all that is around us, reflective about all we experience, and connected through strong relationships with people who can help us understand both ourselves and our world.