The Art of Freedom: Teaching the Humanities to the Poor

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W. W. Norton & Company, Feb 18, 2013 - Education - 320 pages

A conversation in a prison cell sparks an ambitious undertaking to attack the roots of long-term poverty.

Seeking answers to the toughest questions about poverty in the United States, Earl Shorris had looked everywhere. At last, one resounding answer came from a conversation with a woman in a maximum-security prison: the difference between rich and poor is the humanities. Shorris took that idea and started a course at the Clemente Family Guidance Center in New York. With a faculty of friends, he began teaching the great works of literature and philosophy—from Plato to Kant, from Cervantes to Garcia Marquez—at the college level to dropouts, immigrants, and ex-prisoners. From that first class came two dentists, a nurse, two PhDs, a fashion designer, a drug counselor, and other successes.

Over the course of seventeen years the course expanded to many U.S. cities and foreign countries. Now Earl Shorris has written the stories of those who teach and those who study the humanities—a tribute to the courage of people rising from unspeakable poverty to engage in dialogue with professors from great universities around the world.

This year, in a high school on the South Side of Chicago, a Clemente Course has begun that may change the character of public education in America and perhaps the world.


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LibraryThing Review

User Review  - joeydag - LibraryThing

I did not finish reading this collection of reports from the author's experiences of teaching humanities to the poor. It was a moving story but not compelling enough for me to want to finish. His use ... Read full review

THE ART OF FREEDOM: Teaching the Humanities to the Poor

User Review  - Kirkus

A prolific author and founder of the Clemente Course in the Humanities, a free program designed to teach reflective thinking to the disadvantaged, tells stories about the students and teachers touched ... Read full review


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About the author (2013)

Earl Shorris (1936–2012) was the author of many works of both fiction and non-fiction including Latinos, Under the Fifth Sun, In the Language of Kings, and Riches for the Poor. He was awarded a National Humanities Medal by President Clinton for his founding of the Clemente Course in the Humanities®, Inc.

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