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A Worthy Sacrifice

Sean Walker

May 9, 2019

A Worthy Sacrifice

Educated is a memoir that revolves around Tara Westover’s relationship with Education and

Family. Hers is a story about a journey from isolation and detachment from the world to

becoming an Educated and participating member of society. Her family’s survivalist lifestyle

kept her from receiving the Education she should have been given as a child. Despite having

feelings of contempt for her parents, Tara saw them in the same way as many children do about

their own families. She loved her parents and valued her family but she also valued knowledge

and had a deep love and respect for learning. Tara had to weigh the cost of becoming an

Educated person knowing she would have to go against here family’s beliefs and values. Her

struggle to become an educated person was difficult and painful. Breaking the bonds of family is

wrenching, and Tara had to pay a high price to become an educated person. Tara’s memoir

Educated demonstrates the bonds go beyond time and reason. And her decision to break that

bond proved how much she recognized the importance and value of obtaining an education.

For many Children, their first experience of education would come through the family.

They are the first people you will be able to communicate with, and learning about the world

from their own point of view. And for the average child, they would have to wait 4 years until

they go to School for the first time. Family teaches you the basics of education such as learning

to maintain good behavior, knowing the rules of society, and relating with others who aren’t your

family, but could play a positive role on your path to being educated in the long run. Tara’s

family would pull her and her siblings away from the educational system in the aftermath of the
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siege at Ruby Ridge that involved Randy Weaver, in the false belief that he refused to put his

kids in public school. “Dad was always saying that one day the government would come after

folks who resisted its brainwashing, who didn’t put their kids in school” (#209, Westover). This

belief that her father would hold on to would prove to be a strong example of his Christian

Fundamentalist views combined with his Survivalist lifestyle. Education was forbidden under her

father’s roof, and she would have to endure it for her entire childhood.

Until she went to college, she believed her Father and accepted his teachings. After the

Weaver Siege, her father pulled his older kids out of school because he was afraid they would be

brainwashed by the government. Her father did not allow his children to interact with doctors,

hospitals, and public schools. Her parents wouldn’t even give Tara an actual birth certificate until

she was 9 years old. They homeschooled the kids with their own created curriculum. Tara’s

relationship with her entire family, her parents, grandparents or siblings, have all played a

significant role in either helping or teaching Tara her place in Society. Tara’s father denied her

an education due to his religious beliefs .Their anti-government stance would force Tara to

endure years of Homeschooling along with her siblings, and she would become indoctrinated

with the ideas that the world was out to get her and the family she cares for so much. When Tara

becomes independent of her family for the first time when she enrolls in college at Brigham

Young University it was life changing. She realized that the things that her father told her about

the world were not real. For the first time she realized that he was possibly suffering from a

mental disorder that contributed to creating a perspective of the world for him that was nothing

but chaos and darkness. Her first taste of education made her finally understand her father, but at

what cost?
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The impact of understanding that her father was mentally ill helped her understand why

he was so paranoid and delusional. When Tara was at BYU (Brigham Young University) she

realized that the stories her father told were fabricated to protect her from being indoctrinated by

the “Illuminati”. Her father accused his own son Tyler, for joining the secret society when he

went to college, and at the time Tara herself was surprised: “I didn’t believe Tyler would really

go to College, that he would ever abandon the mountain to join the Illuminati. I figured Dad had

all summer to bring Tyler to his senses, which he tried to do most days when the crew came for

lunch.” (#48, Westover) Tara started to become more curious and asked questions. She

questioned her father’s conspiracy theories and confronted both her parents for having her

believe in such tales. “Why did you fight so hard against made-up monsters, but do nothing

about the monsters in your own house?” (#211, Westover). She began to resent her family’s way

of keeping her in the dark and isolated from the world. But then one day, Tara would get word

that her Father would injure himself in an accident when his fuel tank exploded as a result of him

lighting his torch that would ignite the fire in the fuel tank, nearly killing him in the process. And

in spite of all the things she’s been through, Tara deep down still cared for her family as she was

hesitant to break her bond with them.

In spite of Shawn’s physical and mental abuse, her Father’s endless fearmongering, lack

of education, lack of medical care and neglect, Tara would still view her family as a critical part

of her life, and would be there for them even when the situation was dire. The bonds of family

are deep and difficult to sever but Tara knew if she was going to pursue a different life she would

have to go against all their beliefs. Her family put her in a very difficult and painful position of

having to choose between being educated and being a part of the family. Most young people

never have to struggle with this dilemma. Most people can depend on their family to stand by
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them as they move through life. During my childhood, my parents did everything they possibly

could to give me a future despite having been diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome (Autism).

They would help me keep in touch with everyone in the family and made sure I didn’t lose track

of getting my own education. Family has always been very valuable to me. From my earliest

recollections they were always there to support me and help me become a better person. My

parents spent hours teaching, talking and helping me to become more a part of the world. Having

Asperger’s made me less of a social person. And more willing to live blissfully live in a world of

my own making. But my family opened the doors for me as I got older and helped me navigate

through life. Tara’s struggles are so difficult for me to understand, and to have a family that was

destructive and counter-productive must have been a painful thing to experience. She had the

audacity to sacrifice her family bond in order to gain the education and self-respect that was

denied her. Their abuse and neglect should have made it easier but it was not.

We take education for granted, it is provided by our parents and schools, and Tara craved

learning like me and wanted to be able to become an educated person. The only education she

was given was what her parents provided at home. An education of fear, hate, and falsehoods.

According to Tara, the closest she had to an education was the Mormon’s holy-scripture “Book

of Mormon” and the new-testament. This was not enough for Tara. She had come to realize from

experiences with her grandparents, siblings like Tyler, Shawn, Tony, and Richard. That there

was so much out there in the world that she was missing. Tara was conflicted and had to make a

difficult choice between maintaining her family’s support and bond or abandoning their anti-

government and religious struggle to focus on receiving an Education that was not only limited

to books but to becoming a contributing member of society.


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Tara’s story is a story of courage, perseverance and sacrifice. Her journey took her from

the remote mountain area of Idaho to the most prestigious institutions of academics. To get there

she had to go against everything that she knew and loved. Tara was able to realize that her family

would ultimately destroy her. To achieve all that she has Tara had to give up everything. But in

doing this she gained self- respect and an ability to be a fully human person. I can relate to Tara’s

love for learning as I myself have been on a never-ending quest for knowledge about the world I

live in. The fact that her family tried to deprive her of this important human need it is

inconceivable. If I found myself in the same situation it would crush my spirit. Tara did not

really have an option. She chose the path of survival. And she chose to keep her mind and spirit

alive. Being educated was her goal, and that she wouldn’t let anything hard prevent her from

accomplishing that goal.

While I enjoyed reading Educated, one of the questions I ask myself after reading the last

page was “How accurate was Tara’s story about the relationship between herself and her family?

And is it possible that she could’ve faked this entire story out of anger towards her parents?” and

I personally thought she even seemed to have issues herself just like her father when she hid

herself away in her home after having an emotional breakdown. But as I read the

acknowledgements, Tara’s memoir was based on a journal she wrote while living with her

family. The Book and its contents being approved by 3 of her brothers and being positively

received by her Professor. Educated was a very personal narrative of a young woman’s

courageous story to break away from her family so she could become a fully educated person not

only intellectually, but also socially. It took great courage for her to realize that her family was

not only opposing her choice to be an educated person, but to be a fully functional member of

society. And by the end, Tara was able to embrace her past and forgive her oppressive family
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and create a new life for herself. As for me, Tara has taught me that in order to achieve the goals

you are seeking to accomplish, you must prepare yourself to make that choice between the things

you care about and the dreams that you seek to make a reality.
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Works Cited

Westover, Tara. Educated: A Memoir, 2018, Random House