Education in Welcome to Night Vale and Kirsten Learns a Lesson

In Kirsten Learns a Lesson, Kirsten goes to school in order to learn to read and write English, so that she can fit in and become a part of American society. In Welcome to Night Vale, Tamika Flynn reads and learns so that she can survive and lead. Night Vale has public schools, but they are more akin to survival camps in what they teach. In the podcast Welcome to Night Vale education is a separating factor, while in Kirsten Learns a Lesson education is an integrating factor. While the girls share a few basic facts in common (both are preteens, both live in difficult times) the two girls live in drastically different societies which have different attitudes toward education. In Kirsten’s world, education is normal, and important for assimilation. Children are taught to read and write English in school, and are taught about morals by their parents, so that they can become functional members of society. In Night Vale, libraries are dangerous, schools cover very limited subjects, and the town approves very few books. Librarians are deadly inhuman monsters, and have caused many deaths. For these reasons, most people avoid libraries, and books in general. There is one major exception: Tamika Flynn and her militia. Tamika Flynn first appears in episode 28, Summer Reading Program, when she, along with over 100 other children, are teleported into the library and forced to take part in the Night Vale Public Library’s summer reading program, which had been abolished by the City Council 30 years prior, with reasons ranging from “lack of funds” to the incident referred to only as “The Time of Knives”. Nevertheless, the librarians have reinstated it, putting up posters with slogans such as “Get into a good book this summer” and “You are going to get inside this book, and we are going to close it on you and there is nothing you can do about it.” At the end of the episode, Tamika leads the survivors of the summer reading program out of the library, clutching a severed librarian’s head, and her blood stained sticker chart, showing that she has read Cry, the Beloved Country. She goes on to spearhead a revolution in later episodes. Kirsten, on the other hand, struggles in school because she speaks little English. She struggles socially at first, having only her cousins as friends. Unlike Tamika, she does not take a leadership role or find reading easy. Kirsten’s main challenge is memorizing and reciting a very short poem. Tamika, on the other hand, not only reads all of Emily Dickinson, she learns to triangulate radio signals from the anthology.

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