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For Educators

The Office of First-Year Experience is excited to provide books and help support classroom integration of Tara Westover’s Educated for the Spring 2021 KU Common Book Mini-Experience. If you have not yet requested e-book download codes for your class, please click here.

We know this opportunity comes with little time for planning. We want to support your integration of the book in any way we can. Below, you’ll find support materials and optional lesson plans with recommended excerpts from the text.

Publisher’s Common Book Reading Guide

This guide from Penguin Random House provides a list of discussion questions that might help you pinpoint a portion of the text appropriate to your course.

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Class Activity – Icebreaker on Imposter Syndrome (~25min)

Icebreaker – Tara Westover’s Educated

This 25min icebreaker will make students aware that imposter syndrome is a common experience, and it will give you the opportunity to get to know your students’ KU struggles, allowing you to connect them with any relevant resources.

SLOs: Students will be able to…

  • Define imposter syndrome
  • Identify any such feelings in themselves and be prepared to question them

Context from the full book to share with students:

Westover never set foot in a classroom until she was seventeen. While her parents told state representatives that she was homeschooled, she received no structured education in her childhood that would mirror a public education. Through a great deal of independent study, Westover scored well on the ACT and was admitted to Brigham Young University. Upon arrival at BYU, Westover immediately falls prey to imposter syndrome. While her situation is unique, almost all students in a new environment experience these feelings at one time or another.

Student Preparation:

  • IN ADVANCE: Have students read Ch17 “To Keep It Holy” and Ch18 “Blood and Feathers”
  • OR IN-CLASS (the flexible option): Project pg 155 of Ch17 “To Keep It Holy” (or any other passage relevant to imposter syndrome or the theme you’d like to discuss)

Class Activity:

  • Share context about the book, if necessary (3min)
  • Define imposter syndrome and, if willing, share a time where you experienced it (3min)
  • In small groups, have students discuss: “Make a list of the reasons Westover might feel she doesn’t belong in higher education.” (7min)
  • Share out and discuss Westover’s ultimate success in higher ed. (5min)
  • Have students go around and introduce themselves with their name and one thing they’ve found difficult to adjust to here at KU. (10min)
    • (Make it clear that they don’t need to confess anything that would make them uncomfortable. This is a good chance to build rapport and for you to learn about student needs. You might connect students with any resources you think might help, either with the whole class, or as an individual follow up later.)
  • Encourage students to attend Westover’s visit. (2min)
    • Student Conversation Feb. 24 at 4:00pm
    • Public Talk Feb. 26 at 7:30pm
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Class Activity – Discussion on the Risks and Rewards of Higher Education (~50min)

Class Discussion on Formal Education – Tara Westover’s Educated

 

This 50-minute lesson plan invites us to consider the risks/rewards of higher education, especially how they might impact our family dynamics or our ability to go “home” again. This is especially relevant for classes in the School of Education, although the issues discussed are much more widely applicable.

SLOs: Students will be able to…

  • Summarize points from the text and cite them in conversation
  • Describe the barriers some students feel in seeking higher education

Context from the full book to share with students:

Westover never set foot in a classroom until she was seventeen. While her parents told state representatives that their children were homeschooled, they received no structured education that would mirror a public education. The book follows Westover’s own road through higher education, but her brother, Tyler, is the first to go to college. This chapter follows Tyler as he shares his intent to go to college with his family.

Student Preparation:

  • Read Chapter 5 – “Honest Dirt”

Class Activity:

  • Opening remarks or announcements (4min)
  • Freewrite (10min):
    • What are Tyler’s family’s objections to formal education?
    • Do you have any family members with similar (even if less extreme) views? What have they said?
  • Discussion (35min) – possible questions:
    • What are Tyler’s family’s objections to formal education?
    • What does Tyler risk by seeking to go to college?
    • More broadly, how can family dynamics be affected by a person’s decision to go to college? What does the student sacrifice (or risk sacrificing)?
    • Why does Tyler (or why do you) feel such sacrifices are worth it?
    • How should we be aware of these dynamics in our classroom? On our campus? In our field?
  • Encourage students to attend Westover’s visit. (1min)
    • Student Conversation Feb. 24 at 4:00pm
    • Public Talk Feb. 26 at 7:30pm
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Themes and Paired Readings – A List of a Few Prominent Themes with Relevant Chapters

Themes and Paired Readings –Tara Westover’s Educated

These themes and chapter pairings are designed to help you identify the portion of the book most relevant for your class’s topic. These are just a few of the themes you might choose to highlight.

Memory and its Unreliability – Westover often questions her memory, relying on journals from the period to fill in blanks. Read especially Ch 35, “West of the Sun,” in which Westover begins to separate her memories from those of her family, who continue to forget and reframe the violence she and others suffer at the hands of her volatile brother, Shawn. See also Westover’s “A Note on the Text” at the end.

Gender – Very specific and rigidly-defined gender roles govern the Westover house. Westover’s family, especially her brother Shawn, criticize her for her clothing and behavior, and convince her that she is sinful. Read especially Ch 8, “Tiny Harlots.”

Domestic Abuse – Content Warning (graphic descriptions of physical and mental abuse) – While many might argue that Westover experiences mental abuse at the hands of many of her family members, the physical abuse is perpetrated most obviously by her brother, Shawn. To discover the nature of Shawn’s abuse and control tactics and Westover’s defense mechanisms in response, read especially Ch 12, “Fish Eyes” and Ch 13, “Silence in the Churches.”

Racism – Content Warning (n-word) – When Westover first attended school, she had not heard of the word “holocaust.” When she returns home after her first semester, she has developed a new understanding of international atrocities and the United States’ Civil Rights Movement. Shawn’s insistent use of a racist epithet as her nickname, then, prompts new reflection. The book doesn’t process this moment in depth, which might be interesting to discuss in and of itself. Read Ch 20, “Recitals of the Fathers.”

Survivalism – Westover’s father, Gene, practices survivalism both in response to his fear of the end of days and federal government intervention. Read especially Ch 1, “Choose the Good,” in which the family learns of Ruby Ridge.

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Related Readings

This resource page from CSUN compiles related readings for several themes of the book. These readings might be helpful paired with the above activities or in conjunction with anything you’re planning to create.

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