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 17 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.
is the best education for the few the best education for all? The late Earl Shorris answers yes. To dismiss him as an elitist peddling outmoded Western "classical" ideas is to profoundly misunderstand his projects of love and wisdom. This book tells the visceral, sometimes humourous, often suspenseful human stories of his various adventures to set up and fund free humanities courses all over the USA, Canada, and the world. I was pleasantly surprised at how beautifully he integrated original languages and great works of aboriginal peoples in Alaska, the midwest, Mexico, and Australia. The warm open-hearted stories shared in this volume are living testimonies of the changed lives of homeless and marginalized people from across the planet. It is too bad that Shorris did not live long enough to receive the presidential medal of Honour awarded to Clemente by Obama in 2014.