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Jun 19, 2017

A Community Health Center may seem like an unlikely place to learn about the arts and humanities, but really, when you think about it, the notion is not so implausible. At Codman Square Health Center, located in the working class neighborhood of Dorchester in Boston, the focus is always on the whole health of a patient.

To that end, if a health center patient requires a prescription for intellectual sustenance, Codman Square helps fill that need with a twice weekly course on humanities and art. The course, called the Clemente Course, is one of 31 given around the country (and one of five in Massachusetts). It offers a cultural dive into the great books and ideas of world history — Socrates, Shakespeare, Aristotle, Plato, Homer and writers such as Langston Hughes and Zora Neale Hurston. Students are also exposed to a wide-ranging swath of art history, from Mesopotamia to Pablo Picasso and Andy Warhol. There are classes in moral philosophy, literature, American history, art history and writing. The students meet for two semesters. To be eligible for admission a student cannot have graduated from college and must live in a household getting by on less than what is considered a living wage in Boston (about $13.42 an hour for one person). The classes are free. Once the course is complete each student receives six credits from Bard College in New York State that can be transferred to another learning institution.

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"The world improves when each one of us becomes better. The Odyssey Project achieves one of the kindest acts: it encourages us to look within ourselves, to seek a better world and the most important, it gives us hope to find it."

Luis Tafolla,
Odyssey Project, Chicago,IL

A Bard College Clemente Course

Adult Course Offers Learning For The Sake Of Learning

Flying on the wings of knowledge.

Clemente Course on NPR

Beth Fertig, WNYC

National Endowment for the Humanities features
the Clemente Course

"If one has been 'trained' in the ways of poverty, what is needed is a beginning, not a repetition... If we learn through the humanities to want to seek freedom, to be beginners, if we learn to live a life not of reaction but of reflection, then we're prepared to go on to do wonderful things and have a full life. We're free in ways that other people are not."

Earl Shorris, Founder, Clemente Course in the Humanities

National Humanities Medal

The Clemente Course in the Humanities awarded a 2014 National Humanities Medal

To the Clemente Course in the Humanities, for improving the lives of disadvantaged adults. The Clemente Course has brought free humanities education to thousands of men and women, enriching their lives and broadening their horizons.

(from the White House citation)




About Us

The Clemente Course in the Humanities® is a unique educational institution founded in 1995 to teach the humanities at the college level to people living in economic distress.

The course works in conjunction with faculty from leading colleges and universities on five continents. Students learn through dialogue about moral philosophy, literature, history, art history, critical thinking, and writing.

More than ten thousand students worldwide have attended a Clemente course, and over fifty percent have successfully completed it.

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 preparation for college, many students have gone on to two- and four-year colleges.

There is no tuition; books are provided, and the college credits offered in most courses are readily transferable to other institutions.

In addition to free tuition and books, access to child care and transportation is provided without charge.

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To learn about the origins of the Clemente Course, please read this article (PDF) from the September 1997 issue of Harper's Magazine and Riches for the Poor: The Clemente Course in the Humanities, both written by Clemente Course founder, Earl Shorris.

The Clemente Project

Two nights a week, at a community center in Dorchester, Ma, a group of adults discuss Aristotle, Virginia Woolf and Picasso's Guernica, in the rigorous Clemente Course in the Humanities. The students value their time here, as their life circumstances have made college a deferred dream. Inside the classroom, their studies give rise to vigorous debate; outside, to some unexpected life changes.

Filmmaker: James Rutenbeck, Independent Producer & Editor
Lost Nation Pictures, Ltd
land line: 617-254-6400
mobile: 978-204-8935