The Art of Freedom: Teaching the Humanities to the Poor

Earl Shorris. Norton, $27.95 (320p) ISBN 978-0-393-08127-5
In 1995, Shorris (The Politics of Heaven), while researching a book on poverty, visited New York’s Bedford Hills prison, where a female prisoner made an offhand comment: the difference between rich and poor is the humanities. This prison visit led to the much-lauded Clemente Course, a program to teach the humanities to disadvantaged students from all backgrounds, and earned Shorris the National Humanities Medal, presented to him by President Bill Clinton in 2000. The course focuses on teaching philosophy, art history, and literature through authors such as Plato, Dante, and Cervantes—complicated readings for students who have often failed out of high school. This book charts the progress of the Clemente Course from its first class of 25 in New York through its expansion to Illinois, Oklahoma, Wisconsin, and eventually abroad to Canada, Sudan, and other countries. Shorris’s story is told in the first person as he observes and interacts with students who participate in the 10-month program. Though Shorris takes readers through each location’s specific problems, the book is more fundamentally about how his students have shaped him through their perspectives, experiences, and expectations. (Feb.)
Reviewed on: 12/24/2012
Release date: 02/01/2013
Genre: Nonfiction
Open Ebook - 288 pages - 978-0-393-08424-5
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