It was an honor to be invited to Paideia School’s neurodiversity class to be with the neurotypical students and discuss the book “Educated” by Tara Westover. The students at Paideia read “Educated” by Tara Westover this past summer. Tara was raised at a Mormon household, almost isolated from the rest of the world and never received formal education. She found an Algebra book, taught herself how to take ACT and later enrolled herself to go to college. She later received a doctorate in literature from Oxford University and wrote this book/memoir about the journey of her life and her education. She no longer follows the Mormon religion. It was amazing to notice similarities in her life with my life.
I did not read the book, I reviewed it through the following link that was provided by their teacher. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZvYg_gp0JPc
Then, we were led through a discussion that included the following questions:
Question: In whatever way you interpret education to mean, what do you see as the most valuable thing education can offer? What are the barriers we face in gaining access to this kind of offering?
Ashish: I think education helps in expanding knowledge about facts and also helps broaden our understanding of how various systems work. Some examples are how countries, economies, laws and, laws of physics work. You learn about the human body through biology. I was in the same boat as Tara, never received age appropriate education at school system. I think most valuable thing education offers is the ability to innovate once you understand facts how things work.
Ashish: The barriers are, schools think autistics are cognitively impaired and and don’t offer any meaningful education. The schools provide babysitting services. The real barrier is our inability to show our gifted thoughts as we can’t tell them via speech, writing, or typing independently due to our fine motor differences.
Ashish’s comments on a student’s response: Yes acquiring knowledge is the end goal, how various systems work together and then we see patterns. Our strength is draining insights from patterns.
Question: Tara’s father believed – to an extreme – that “You can teach yourself anything better than someone else can teach it to you.”
Do you agree or disagree with this statement?
Ashish: I both agree and disagree. I agree because chasing your dreams is self taught. No one can teach you to motivate you to chase your dreams. Facts based systems/subjects are best if taught by someone else. If not taught, these lead to a lot of assumptions.
Question: What is something that you have taught yourself? How did you learn it?
Ashish: Having focus in life is pivotal to success. Having a growth mindset helped me to take each obstacle as an opportunity to grow. I taught myself a lot of science and math concepts by watching Khan Academy videos. I don’t test well but that does not stop me from learning new concepts.
Question: What is something you have learned from someone else that you feel you could not have learned as well on your own? Who taught it to you?
Ashish: Physics, chemistry, biology, algebra, US government, micro and macro economics and many other subjects were thought to me through my on-line school using text to speech feature. My dad made it his life’s purpose to educate me well.
Question: Name something that you really want to learn that you haven’t yet.
What’s stopping you?
Ashish: Playing and learning to play piano. My fine motor movement differences get in the way. I wish to be able to learn to speak, my autism gets in the way.
Question: What do we value most as a society – school, education, or intelligence?
Ashish: Intelligence finds its way either through wit or by solving complex problems. For example Elon musk solved a problem by recovering rockets on ship to be able to reuse. Another example is building self driving cars that will help people like us go places.
Question: What should we value most as a society – school, education, or intelligence?
Ashish: Intelligence, because it breeds innovation. In my opinion, composing good music is the highest form of intelligence. It reaches people beyond words.
Then we did an activity on Gardner’s 9 types of intelligences. Here is the link to the video that explains them
Ashish’s ratings for himself for 9 types of intelligence (1 being low, 5 being very strong)
Verbal-Linguistic Intelligence (Word Smart) 4
Logical-Mathematical (Number Smart) 5
Visual-Spatial (Picture Smart) 2
Bodily-Kinesthetic (Body Smart) 1
Musical (Music Smart) 3
Interpersonal (People Smart) 5
Intrapersonal (Self Smart) 4
Naturalistic (Nature Smart) 4
Existential (Life Smart) 4
Some other types are Teach smart, IQ, EQ and some other forms
Emotional Intelligence: Ashish: These days there is a lot of focus on EQ.
Ashish: Thank you for having us here today. It was a joy to hear about your perspectives.
It was very kind of the teacher to invite me again to a celebration lunch with the class at the end of their semester.