In Educated, Tara talks about how a person’s actions and inactions add up to shape the course of their lives, but her life was also affected by many seemingly random accidents. To what extent are we shaped by our choices and by events that happen to us?

What happens to a person may provide motivation to change that situation, as her parents’ anti-school attitude did for Tara in Educated. Although people have no control over many events in their lives, the choices they make are often more important than external factors. Individual decisions can also influence the outcome of those events. For example, wearing a seatbelt can lessen a person’s injuries, although it does not prevent automobile accidents.

Expert Answers

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On any given day, a person will be involved in countless situations over which they have no control. These include natural phenomena or “acts of God,” such as hurricanes or tornados, as well as random occurrences such as traffic accidents. In many cases, small decisions can make a huge difference. Examples include seeking shelter during bad weather and wearing a seatbelt in case one gets into an automobile accident. In these situations, one’s house may still be destroyed or damaged, or one’s car may be totaled, but the specific choices increase the chances of staying alive and preventing serious injury.

When we consider social situations and values, including one’s family, choices are very limited when one is young. We do not choose our parents and have little influence on our place of residence, parents’ occupations, and family values. In Tara Westover’s case, her parents chose to withdraw from society to the extent possible, and they disapproved of or feared formal education.

From her memoir, the reader can see the effects of individual choices as she reveals the different paths that she and her brothers took. Although Shawn, Tyler, and Tara all decided to leave the family compound, Shawn behaved abusively toward his sister, where Tyler taught her and nurtured her love of education. Tara’s choices to follow Tyler’s advice, as well as to heed the encouragement of mentors she encounters, propels her into the successful pursuit of higher education.

Many adolescents make choices about education, such as the type of higher education to pursue. Many must accept their parents’ limited financial ability to fund education, even from those who strongly support the child’s desire to continue studying. Individual choices such as conducting research and discussing goals with teachers and coaches can contribute to achieving those goals.

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