9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on November 28, 2005
"Riches for the Poor" describes the development and application of the Clemente Course of Humanities, a rigorous survey of the humanities that includes political philosophy and diplomatics. Shorris sees the humanities, increasingly removed from public school curricula, as tools for disenfranchised students to become fully engaged citizens participating in democratic society. Now that this book has been out for several years, time has proven Shorris' theories, as new Clemente courses sprouted up in the United States and abroad. They have particularly taken root in indigenous communities where Western perspectives are studied in tandem with indigenous humanities and languages. Students have been inspired by Clemente courses to go back to college or enter college for the very first time. A good read about a promising movement in education.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on January 14, 2007
what a great book I have just read. it wanders across the problem of poverty in the capitalist empire. it uses true examples for consolidating his argument and explains the alternative solution to this problem that seems a problem more from people of all classes rather than the "underclass".
it produced some sparks on the eagerness to learn more humanities and escape from the "surround of force" which most of us are influenced with.
I have really loved this book a lot and I hope some more can have the same experience i had in this eye-opener proposal that explicitly is aimed at the poor class, but affects the whole society.
6 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on November 22, 2005
Riches for the Poor struggles under the weight of a provocative and problematic thesis: the idea that learning the humanities will deliver the poor from poverty into the wealth of a reflective, political mind and life. Shorris' book relies more heavily on theory then fieldwork, but his passion for his project is inspiring, and his commitment to seeing it through is evident from the Clemente Courses that have sprung up across the country since his founding of the first. Riches for the Poor is at heart a sociological text, told in large part from the bird's-eye view of an academic rather than from the more revealing pavement. It's worth the read for those interested in Shorris' theories and their applications, less worth it for those interested in their long-term implications.
16 of 42 people found the following review helpful
on January 29, 2002
The author starts the book out by making the case that what distinguishes poor people from rich people is lack of access to "politics." By this, he means politics in the classical Greek sense of civic involvement. He says rich people it and poor people don't because poor people don't study the humanities (philosophy, history, classic literature.) He then hypothesizes that teaching poor people a rigorous introductory college level course on the great works of Western culture will give them politics and bring them up from poverty. He sets up just such a course, and documents the experience.
Interesting idea, and fantastic effort toward helping the poor, but the book ends without any significant analysis of whether his hypothesis was correct. He notes that some kids went on to college, and says a controlled study was beyond his scope. He never answers the questions (which he does raise) about the possibility that the successful students may have been self-selecting (by choosing to be in the course, and making it through) or may have been helped through all the attention or a mental exercise unrelated to the humanities.
Why on earth did he bother to put the reader through 100 pages of his quasi-religious reverence for the great books, then torture us with 100 more pages of reprinted course syllabuses and personal profiles, if he was never, ever planning to conclude with data (or even organized anecdotes) supporting his case?!
Bottom line: you will only like this book if you are an ivory tower academic with more of an interest in paying homage to the great books than solving problems related to poverty. If this is you, you'll have to be a die-hard leftist not to roll your eyes when he compares Bill Clinton to Jerry Falwell, and claims that social conservatives are unable to learn ethics.