My original claim was to assert the need to reestablish an antiquated educational system by demonstrating the apathetic youth it has produced, however this being such a varied subject containing many holes for debate, I've decided to take on a less-cumbersome topic that I am much more familiar and comfortable with; Promoting the expansion of the Clemente Course using this entry as my first step in contribution. As stated by the Clemente Course "the aim of the course is to bring the clarity and beauty of the humanities to people who have been deprived of these riches through economic, social, or political forces. While the course is not intended as a preparation for college, many students have gone on to two- and four year colleges." Four months into this program, I and many other students easily recognize the growth in passion of knowledge among one another. The philosopher Socrates spent his entire life actively wondering why it was that he was regarded the wisest man in all of Athens as he admitted to not knowing anything. Ironically it is because of his admittance and awareness to not knowing anything that declared him wise, because he chased after the "why." At the Clemente, students are encouraged to impose questions upon themselves and to think in a manner that allows one to understand the brightest historical figures and most misunderstood writers alike. Socrates professed that it's best to venture into the things we don't understand, and much like his students, we are enlightened ever so on a weekly basis to do the same As a student to the course of the past four months I can say there is a certain flare our teacher's passions spark that becomes something of a forest fire over the minds of their students that drive them further on the subjects of humanities. A personal favorite occurrence of mine that I've come to enjoy is watching my classmates argue with one another. It's something I've grown to love watching for the sake that the arguments here are never over pointless scuffles, instead we have two sides of the room discuss a debate to challenge each other's beliefs in a very constructive manner. From small group sessions to a full class debate, it's always a sight to see when we share our diverse ideas and passions aloud. In Essence, the Clemente Course is truly a monument to the virtue of humanism. At first glance we are simply a room of people sitting in a box, but if you ask any of us in the most honest of words what it is we do; we learn, we think, and we write.
Affiliation: Clemente Course, Harlem
Life is More Than Just Survival
I have benefited from all the social services this community has to offer. I’ve been homeless, in the battered women's center, AA, welfare, everything. These agencies taught me how to survive, and I’m proud of that. But Clemente showed me that there is more than just survival: that I have a future out there just like anyone, and I can do more than survive. I saw a new horizon that I didn’t even know was there before. So one day I'm going to be a lawyer.
Affiliation: Port Hadlock, WA
Congratulations! To all of us! It was a wonderful experience but it was a real challenge as well, wasn't it? Several weeks into the program, when a few folks dropped out, I realized how valuable my fellow students were to me. It wasn't just words and ideas. It was the human voices expressing those ideas. There was a psychological, emotional, and spiritual energy circulating in that room and most of that energy came from you. Thank you for sharing this year with me. What a magnificent program you folks have created! Every week, not just a new subject but a new professor, a new face, a new voice, a new tone - a new atmosphere. Three quarters of the way through the year and I'm on my way to a class that is just as fresh and unpredictable as the very first day! I never got used to this. I never got tired of it. It seems to me that we all have a little door in our mind that we can close off and allow the words and ideas we don't like to just pass by without touching us. In order to open that door and invite those ideas in, in order to engage those ideas, we need two things - a safe environment, and an idea worth engaging. Week after week after week this program provided both. Several times during this course I've heard discussions about the value of a humanities course as opposed to a more practical, pragmatic program. The problem with practical instruction is that the role of giver and receiver never changes. If you are teaching someone math, it is highly unlikely that you will learn something new about math from your student. In the humanities however, the role of giver and receiver is constantly shifting. Whoever is speaking at the time becomes the giver. This can be a very empowering and validating experience for people in low income situations like us. We are used to being seen as the receiver and are rarely valued for our life experience or our opinions. Being able to share something of ourselves and being validated for this can change our minds about who we are and this change will manifest throughout our lives. Part way through the course, our director left to visit a university in Ontario that is thinking about starting up a free Humanities program, and I remember thinking to myself at the time - "Even if they obtain the funding, recruit the professors, and have detailed instructions on how the program runs, they are still going to need a Mary Lu to make it work." Mary Lu, you have been a bridge between some of the finest minds and biggest hearts in Halifax and ourselves, and the way our society is structured, we really need that bridge because these people would not normally be a part of our lives. Day after day, you created an atmosphere of academic excellence and warm welcome. I could never figure out how you did it, I could just observe the results in every class. I know I speak for the entire class when I say "Thank you so very much. Thank you." -L.D. Halifax Humanities 101, Class of 2011
Affiliation: Halifax, NS, Canada
On Teaching Adults
The playing field was level in a way that it isn't when you're teaching youngsters. I stood to learn as much from them as they did from me: these were people with wide and serious experience. For instance, I taught the philosophy of economics to our class this past summer. When you're talking with people who have worked their whole lives, often in minimum-wage jobs or marginal employment, the conversation takes on more depth. The problems and their responses are more urgent and more deeply felt.
Affiliation: Department of Philosophy, Willamette University
Learning From Students
As a teacher, I always learn from my students. I've never learned more from a single class than I did last summer in the Humanity In Perspective class. Our readings and discussions centered on varieties of love and the relationship between love and living a good life. I was struck by how unromantic about love these students were compared to my normal classes of 18 to 24-year-olds. Humanity In Perspective students, perhaps like most adult students, come fully prepared to disagree with the prevailing myths of popular culture; or, to put it more positively, I've never felt myself in a group more committed to asking tough questions.
Affiliation: Chair, Department of English and Director of the Writing Center Willamette University
Humanity In Perspective
The Humanity In Perspective course may be the most challenging teaching I have ever done. I quickly discovered that a lot of the classroom tactics and strategies that seem to work with Willamette’s standard students, that is, the 18 to 22 year olds, did not work altogether successfully with a group which was so diverse in terms of both age and life experiences. The HIP students simply read the text differently! And I found that frequently I could not anticipate how they would respond. They did seem to enjoy the texts and our conversations about them, and they did read thoughtfully and well. But I found myself devoting many hours of preparation in reflection, attempting to image the range of possible responses and how I might work with those responses. It was an amazing challenge that opened up and renewed texts that I have taught frequently and know quite well. I came to see those texts differently, too.
Affiliation: Department of History, Willamette University
Changing My Future
Venture [Utah Clemente Course] impacted my life in a wonderful way. I was facing many trials and tribulations that were very difficult. Right after I started school, I found out that one of my children were addicted to heroin. I was also dealing with my husband being uncomfortable with my pursuing my interests. Now, my child is clean and sober, and my husband has learned how to support me in going to school and furthering my education. If it had not been for my involvement in the Venture program, I am not sure where I would be today. Going through the Venture program helped me to make decisions that will change my future. I have the confidence now to further my education. I have become more aware of what is going on around me and even though politics leave a bad taste in my mouth, I am trying to learn and understand the issues, propositions etc., more than I did before. I have always had a drive to learn. Now that feeling is intensified. I feel ready to be able to pursue my dream of going to school and accomplishing my goal of becoming a degreed person in the future.
Just wanted to thank you, personally, for your support of the Venture program. Ten months ago, my daughter was a 27 year old high school dropout, homeless in Las Vegas, with a felony theft on her record. She asked to come home, and did, and was only able to find work part time at McDonald s thanks to her record. Then she applied to Venture and was admitted. It lit her up. Suddenly, she was coming home Tuesdays and Thursdays wanting to talk about what they d read, the discussion they had in class, essays she was writing. The change was, to us, astonishing. And wonderful.
She not only completed the Venture program, she enrolled full time at Weber State University in January and is completing her first full term here, with good grades. My wife and I were, as I said, astonished at the turnaround, and we both think it would not have happened without Venture and the faculty who work in it.
So, again, from me, my wife, from our whole family: thank you for your support of the program at WSU. It works. If you run into anyone who has doubts about that, please feel free to refer them to me.
Affiliation: Ogden, Utah
[…]Democracy was unreal to me. That word was never in my vocabulary until I took this class, […] My belief in democracy was that "of the people" didn t exist. Democracy to me was full of lying politicians who are hungry for power, money, and fame […] Of the people, it says, until this course I believed that my vote didn t count. My classmates opened my eyes […] Honestly, I didn t understand half of what I was asked to read. Although, I did find them challenging and fun to try learn. But it was my community, my peers, that opened my eyes to see that without a democratic society I would not be free. Free to express myself, free to vote and free to take the Clemente course. I would have a lot taken from me without our democracy.
Affiliation: Clemente Course Graduate 2007
From a Teacher
[…]I have seen students (with severe problems ranging from emotional trauma and substance abuse) who have reached the point of complete despair and resignation, make a complete turnaround after enrollment in Clemente. One student at the end of her dead-end road is now working at an excellent job, saving money, traveling, and making long range plans for her life. She transformed from a dysfunctional "failure" into a caring, contributing member of our community. The single element that precipitated that change was her enrollment in Clemente.
Affiliation: Chimacum School District