UCSB Arts & Lectures kicked off its 2019-20 season on October 1 at the Granada Theatre with a fascinating talk by Tara Westover, author of the bestselling memoir Educated. Top level donors and other VIPs enjoyed an intimate reception, dinner, and Q&A session with Westover beforehand.
During the reception, Westover mingled with the 60 guests in the Granada’s second floor lobby before being seated for the dinner party in the adjacent Founders Room. After the main course, Miller McCune Executive Director Celesta M. Billeci welcomed guests and thanked event sponsors Diana and Simon Raab. Billeci extended her gratitude to all the guests, whom she referred to as people who are “a little bit crazy about arts and culture and books and ideas.” She praised them for being the pillars who make Arts & Lectures’ programming possible for the whole community.
Billeci introduced Westover as the woman whom USA Today referred to as “living proof that some people are just flat-out, boots-always-laced-up indomitable.”
Westover gave in-depth responses to ten questions posed by guests, starting with Lynda Weinman’s inquiry on education in current times. Westover began by sharing that she is concerned when inequality calcifies into a lack of social mobility and sees that the general inequality in society has seeped into education. Institutions now are more stratified, by a factor of 10 or 20, than previously. This results in having where you were born determine how good an education you get, which in turn determines what you can do in your life.
Westover remarked how the knowledge economy that we now have makes human capital even more valuable, but at the same time we are restricting access to education, trapping some in really poor schools.
She reflected on how a lot of people don’t believe in the system and feel alienated by it and posited that the explanation is straightforward —these individuals don’t have the same access that other members of society have.
Westover also pointed out that as we have moved more toward automation, there has been a tendency to reduce education to job training, especially for the poor, minorities, and those in rural communities. While the privileged get a message that education includes an exciting endeavor in self discovery at college, poor kids channeled into job training programs get a very different message. This, Westover maintained, is not the country you want to build.
Another nine questions were met with similarly thoughtful and insightful responses.
Westover grew up in rural Idaho in a radical, survivalist family with no birth certificate, no medical care and no formal schooling. At age 17, she decided to educate herself and eventually earned a doctorate from Cambridge University. Time magazine named Westover one of the 100 Most Influential People of 2019. Educated has been on The New York Times bestseller list for more than a year and was on President Barack Obama’s Favorite Books of the Year list and Bill Gates’s Holiday Reading List.
Major donors are critical to Arts & Lectures as ticket sales and support from UCSB covers less than half of A&L’s costs. Contributions make possible the performances and its community outreach and education. About half of all visiting artists and lecturers engage in some form of outreach or educational activity.
For more info about Arts & Lectures, go to artsandlectures.ucsb.edu.