Can a Home-Schooled Fundamentalist Cope with College?

2 mins read


The answer is yes, as shown by Tara Westover in her book Educated. She grew up in a fundamentalist Mormon family in rural Idaho, then went against her family’s grain to attend first Brigham Young University and then Cambridge.

In today’s Martin Center article, grad student Jacob Bruggeman reviews her book. He finds it enlightening, especially with regard to the value of a liberal education.

Bruggeman writes of Tara:

Her intellectual transformation from an inquisitive but disadvantaged young girl into an ambitious scholar is Educated’s defining arc. Indeed, Westover’s formal education, and her choice of history as a major, signifies more than a career choice. It represents the determination with which Westover distanced herself from and developed beyond the stultifying seclusion on Buck’s Peak, and thus the cultural, spiritual, and intellectual isolation that defined her childhood.

Crucially, Tara’s education helped her to come to grips with her upbringing. Bruggeman continues:

Tara’s crucial insight, however, is this: A college education, no matter its location, cannot deliver us from the past. Education can only equip us with the tools to interpret and live with that past. In fact, for all her academic achievements, Tara writes that she remained ‘two people, a fractured mind.’ Drawing on John Stuart Mill’s On Liberty, here Tara conveys the true value of being educated, that is, the ability to critically engage with one’s history.

In short, a liberal arts education can be beautiful and liberating.

George Leef is the the director of editorial content at the James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal.





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