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a bookclique pick by Jessica Flaxman

Since well before the publication of Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s 1762 treatise on education, Emile, people have wondered whether formally schooling children is more helpful or harmful to the development of free and critical thinkers.

In Educated, a powerful memoir of growing up without any formal education until the age of seventeen, historian Tara Westover offers a nuanced picture of a life lived completely out of school. Raised by Mormon survivalists always readying for the End of Days in rural Idaho, Westover spent her childhood and much of her adolescence in an informal apprenticeship to her mother, a self-taught midwife and healer, and her father, in his scrap metal junkyard. She had no birth certificate and was not allowed to attend public school. She was not homeschooled in the current sense of the word, but certainly received an education in a number of practical and very difficult arts.

Over time and through her own determination to know more about the world outside of Buck’s Peak, Westover studies for the ACT and secures a high enough score to attend Brigham Young University, where she wins the support of professors who push her to pursue learning for a different kind of survival. Westover, who had no sense of past or present when she was growing up and didn’t know what the Holocaust was, went on to complete her PhD in history at Cambridge. Her memoir confirms the idea that an education can be achieved in many ways, and if you liked Jeanette Walls’ The Glass Castle, this book is for you.

Jessica Flaxman

Jessica Flaxman created bookclique in 2018 with English teaching colleagues, writerly friends, and former English students. An avid reader and supporter of literary arts, Jessica is delighted to see bookclique continue to grow in its fifth year under Laura Dickerman's gimlet editorial eye.