Educated by Tara Westover

With overwhelmingly positive reviews from Bill Gates, Barak Obama, as well as consistently winning the best memoir of the year in 2018 by multiple institutions, I had to see if this book lived up to all the hype it seemed to be receiving from everywhere. 

Needless to say, it went above and beyond my expectations. 

Educated is the author’s own story of growing up in a survivalist family that did not allow anyone, least of all Tara, an education. It is the journey of her breaking free from the destructiveness of her family and ending up studying at Cambridge and Harvard.

This memoir is easily one of my favorite books I’ve ever read, if not only for the powerfulness of it. Throughout the memoir, you go from pitying Tara, to pride for all that she’s accomplished. 

One trait I love about Tara is her determination. As she starts studying for the SAT, she knew almost nothing and had to learn almost all of it by herself. For example, when she started practicing trigonometry for the first time, she had the math level of a 5th grader. But as she studied more and more, and was so driven that she passed the SAT without receiving any instruction other than her brother Tyler and some books. 

This book affected me in such a deep way that I feel as if it will resonate with me forever. Now whenever I’m doing my schoolwork and feeling unmotivated, I think about Tara and how hard she had to work to just prove she had what it took without proper schooling to get into high prestige schools. She was very independent and as someone who is striving to do so, Tara is someone I look up to.

Now because of her upbringing she did have a lot of mental health issues. After discovering herself, she was pushed away by her family. Even though she had spoken out to her other family members about how manipulating and damaging her childhood was, almost no one believed her. Because of this, her family ignored her, and even though they have been the root of almost all her problems, she finds herself heartbroken over this. 

But the main thing her family has done to her was the manipulation of ideals they have put upon her. As she was growing up she was taught that the government and all of its institutions were part of the illuminati and were out to kill them. The only thing Tara’s parents willingly taught her about was religion. In fact, when she attended college she couldn’t write the way other student did because she learned to read and write only from mormon texts, she had almost no idea of how to function in a normal society. When going through with all this manipulation her parents justified it in their name of their faith, but it is clearly radicalism, and it is so, so frustrating to read about. 

And with that I leave with you a quote from the memoir that perfectly encompasses the idea of finding your own truth:

“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.”

-Asli B.

Educated by Tara Westover is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive.

The Price of Admission by Daniel Golden

The Price of Admission (Updated Edition): How America's Ruling ...

This book was recommended to me by my friend who accidentally found this book online while she was exploring her college options as a student who needs financial aid. I wasn’t exactly drawn to reading this book at first simply by looking at its title. The United States of American is a nation where equality, justice, and freedom prevail, I thought. But curiosity still prompted me to read the first few pages of this novel and I was truly surprised at how much the rich and wealthy alumnus parents manipulate college acceptance officers to help enroll their children in the Ivy League universities.

I didn’t feel bitter because of the rich kids who, with mediocre academic records and criminal offenses managed to get into Harvard, Yale, Princeton, and Stanford. Well, life is unfair, and their parents just naturally are more powerful and connected to tycoons who with a phone call ensures the matriculation of a child into these universities. What I felt to be a decline in democracy, meritocracy, and most importantly, the prominence of the American education system—one which the U.S. proclaims to be of the top in terms of its position in the world—is the fact that scholarly institutions are no longer willing to discover talent and support intellectual efforts from the rough and lower socioeconomic tiers.

Wealthy legacy and children of generous donors occupy spots that they don’t deserve. Perhaps they don’t even think how many nights did students from working and middle class spent studying instead of partying like them. Is the advancement of education really still the major goal and core of private institutions, or in maintaining their status in the academic community and attracting tycoons their one and only aim now?

-Coreen C. 

Movie Review: Taare Zameen Par

Taare Zameen Par (2007) - IMDb

For Ishaan, an 8-year-old boy, the world is a kaleidoscope of surprise and happiness. He is communicating with this strange world in every way he can think of, and at the same time fully enjoying the generous gifts of the earth. However, this Ishaan is a problem child in the eyes of adults. His grades are poor, he is low in the class, and his mind is full of all kinds of weird and evil ideas. After he makes another disaster, his parents send him to boarding school. Ishaan’s new life doesn’t change much, but inside, he’s unhappy about being separated from his parents, when an art teacher named Ram Shankar Nikumbh comes into his life. Different from the rigid teachers we have seen in the past, Ram Shankar Nikumbh advocates that students should retain their own personality and ideas and develop freely.

By exaggerating social order and school rules, Taare Zameen Par shows the audience that each child has his or her own unique talent and is a role that cannot be replaced by others. We can see from the film that every child has something to offer until we find it. Through the example of Ishaan, the film Taare Zameen Par illustrates that the important role played by parents in the education process determines that parents should pay more attention to the real psychological needs of children. Taare Zameen Par directed and performed by Indian superstar Aamir Khan takes a plain approach and lets people listen to the beautiful songs, plus the animation full of children’s interest, allowing the audience to enter the dyslexia world of the young boy Ishaan. With the eyes of the little boy Ishaan, Aamir Khan looks at the deficiencies in the education system, but he does not complain about the incompleteness of the system and the absence of parents in learning. Instead, he provides different thinking perspectives on family affection and education with sincere and inclusive writing.

Nicholas Nickleby by Charles Dickens

NICHOLAS NICKLEBY (complete, unabridged and with all the original  illustrations from first publication) - Kindle edition by DICKENS, CHARLES.  Literature & Fiction Kindle eBooks @ Amazon.com.

Nicholas Nickleby is a boarding school teacher, an ambitious young man who is left penniless by the death of his father. His usury uncle not only refused to extend his hand to help, but uses his sister’s beauty for his own profit. He was upright and kind, and fled back to London to help abused schoolchildren. After many trials and tribulations, he fought with bad guys and exposed his uncle’s plot. Finally, he succeeded and married the girl he loved. Through his experience, the author reveals that at that time, the so-called poor run schools were actually profit-making places, the students suffered from hunger all day long, and whipping became the most important means of education.

Like most of Dickens’ works, Nicholas Nickleby is set in a contemporary setting. Most of the action takes place in London, with some episodes in Portsmouth and some in Yorkshire and Devon. This work satirizes social injustice in the form of irony. In the subject matter of this book, the main one is the education at that time. Dickens strongly criticized the education system at that time. He believes it is a serious crime that the British education system allows poorly functioning boarding schools to abuse children. Kindness and compassion are the main themes of this book. Noggs also plays the role of guardian angel because he is kind and upright. The friendship between Smike and Nicklyby further shows Dickens’ pity for some unfortunate people.

Greed is also an important theme of the novel. All characters make others suffer for their own financial gain. Most of their mistakes are caused by the love of money. Just as the Bible says: Money is the root of all evil. The book also deals with sexism and the passage of teenagers into adulthood. The book tells the story in the third person. Sometimes, the feelings of the characters are directly written out, and sometimes the feelings or thoughts of the characters are indirectly expressed through some small actions or facial expressions. When Dickens describes the abused children in chapter 8, he employs different rhetorical devices such as exaggeration, metaphor, alliteration and personification to leave readers with images of those children.

Stress to Service

Stress:

Google says it’s “a state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or very demanding circumstances”

According to psychology, it’s “uncomfortable emotional experience accompanied by predictable biochemical, physiological and behavioral changes”

And students agree stress is “AP exams, finals, CIF games and oh, those two projects I won’t be starting until the night before”

In the wee hours of the night, students strive to obtain the intense desire for success

And the wee hours of the night cook the perfect atmosphere for boiling stress.

A child, a baby: a mere fifteen, sixteen, seventeen year old

Persisting, working, sweating like a mule until their transcript shows all gold.

Who can expect a student to sleep eight hours a night but juggle five hours of work?

The expectations, I’d say, are more than enough to irk.

Every year the college acceptance rates drastically drop

And little boys and girls suddenly forget what it means to take a break

and just stop.

Tell me why students who sacrifice their health and sleep

Are still expected to be a lively teen and not weep.

Convince me that students are making the right decisions

In cheating on tests, just to get the “A” and fulfill their college envisions.

Persuade me that the education system is treating their students right

and brainwashing us to believe that a score of 5 is what makes us bright.

Let’s start to encourage using our passion and our voices

To stand up and help society make the right choices.

To be politicized and involved while we’re youthful, proud, and loud.

Time is running out, we can’t wait around.

Third world countries await our kindness, shelters demand our service, feminists deserve our support.

In all due respect, that is more important and influential than a chemistry lab report.

-Jessica T.

The Testing by Joelle Charbonneau

The Testing by Joelle Charbonneau is an intriguing, dystopian novel with action, mystery, and a little romance. The book takes place after a large scale conflict called the Seven Stages War leaves the world as a wasteland.

The novel features main character Cia and her good friend Tomas. They make up a small few that survived the war and are the world’s last hope to rebuild all that was lost. Not everyone is up for the task so only the chosen and elite who can pass the difficult Testing are allowed to further their education into college and get a career. The book has a bit of romance between Cia and her “boyfriend” Tomas who prepares for the testing with her.

I really enjoyed this book because of the suspense over whether or not Cia passes the Testing. Knowing her father’s advice, “trust no one,” made the story more intense. I also like how the book makes you want to talk to the characters because of how engrossing the mysteries become and the realization that there is more to the government than is to be believed. I hope you enjoy this book as much as I did! 

-Amal A.

The Testing series by Joelle Charbonneau is available for check out from the Mission Viejo Library

Changes in Classroom Literature Activities

bookstack2Instead of writing a book review, I decided to write about the changes being made in my English class as to what themes and concepts should be discussed on a particular novel.

Our required reading novel is All Quiet on the Western Front. In September and October of last year, I would have read the entire novel and taken quizzes on chapters of the book every week. This year, however, my teacher told us that the English department wants to “try something out.” Instead of reading the entire novel, we are only reading one chapter of the book.

We are also completing a project to learn about the different perspectives of war: we are going to interview someone we know about their experience with war from different perspectives (mother of soldier, child of soldier, soldier, war protestor, politician, etc.) And then we are going to create narratives using our interviewee’s story as inspiration.

Although I am pretty bummed that we do not get to read the whole novel- reading that one chapter makes me want to read the whole thing- I think this is really exciting because my sophomore class and I get to “test out” new teaching methods that, based on our responses and feedback, may or may not become the new standard for all other 10th grade English accelerated classes to come!

I love English (it’s my favorite subject) so I’m anxious to see how different these new methods will be. I just thought I would share with other students because I find it fascinating the way the teaching board decides how to teach certain material. Hopefully, this experience will be educational, enriching, AND FUN‼

-Kelsey H., 10th grade

A Word with Mrs. Debra Weller, Storyteller

debra_weller

During this interview with the ‘Voices of the Future Storytelling’ club teacher, Mrs. Debra Weller, I learned a lot about how she began a storytelling club. We met for this interview after a storytelling club meeting at Bathgate Elementary School.

ME: How and when did you become interested in becoming a professional storyteller?

MRS. WELLER: It started when I was a girl, and I got sent to my room when I was naughty. I would start making up stories with my dolls. When I was 14, I started teaching a class at my church for fourth graders, and I used stories to teach them.  Finally when I was 26 years old- I had just given birth to my daughter- I met another woman who was going to take care of my daughter. She said, ‘You know, there may be something we can do together, because we want to stay home with our babies.’ We formed the Annie-Lynn Storytellers, and we performed for six years together.

ME: You wouldn’t be doing storytelling for so long if it didn’t benefit you. What benefit do you get from storytelling?

MRS. WELLER: I like using my music and telling serious stories. I like to teach adults how to be storytellers as well as children.The benefits for me are bringing a wholesome way of introducing many beautiful stories from around the world.

ME: Where did the tradition of Storytelling come from?

MRS. WELLER: It’s actually an ancient tradition. It started in many cultures probably 3,000 years ago. In the Kelti times, Shankes went from Irish village to village telling tales. In the Native American culture, Proquastraries explained things that happened in nature. Chinese, Indian, Japanese, South American, Africa, and the Medieval storytellers were quite active throughout the world. Continue reading