The Art of Freedom by Earl Shorris
Teaching the Humanities to the Poor

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Synopsis

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.

 

About Earl Shorris

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Earl Shorris (1936–2012) is 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.
 
Published February 18, 2013 by W. W. Norton & Company. 319 pages
Genres: Education & Reference. Non-fiction

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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 by the experience.

Nov 19 2012 | Read Full Review of The Art of Freedom: Teaching ...

Publishers Weekly

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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.

Dec 24 2012 | Read Full Review of The Art of Freedom: Teaching ...

The Wall Street Journal

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In "The Art of Freedom," Earl Shorris describes his efforts to establish a set of courses that would teach the core texts of Western civilization to people living in poverty, whose school experience had scanted the canon or skipped it entirely.

Apr 16 2013 | Read Full Review of The Art of Freedom: Teaching ...

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