On The Uses of a Liberal Education: As a Weapon In the Hands of the Restless Poor

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In the 1997 article, “On The Uses of a Liberal Education: As a Weapon In the Hands of the Restless Poor,” published by Harper’s Magazine, the social critic Earl Shorris described how political power could be achieved by a rather non-vocational educational discipline, the humanities. He emphasizes on how the knowledge of a liberal Education can be used as a form of weapon within the lives for the poor.
Shorris wanted to explore on poverty in America and write a book based on opinions on what keeps people poor. Therefore, as results of varied conversations with special people in prison, Shorris came to support the prisoner, Viniece Walker’s, argument that destitute students are those most in need of a liberal education. Viniece introduced
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When Shorris explains his goal to the prospective students he indicates, “You’ve been cheated. Rich people learn the humanities; you didn’t. The humanities are a foundation for getting along in the world, for thinking, for learning to reflect on the world instead of just reaction to whatever force is turned against you.”(Page 4) That the rich have had the opportunity to buy that type of learning and embrace it, while the poor have had more things to deal with like getting food on the table from day to day. Therefore, Shorris believes that a liberal education will provide poor students with a new kind of lens to outlook the world. With the knowledge of philosophy, poetry, art history, logic and American history, Shorris trusts that these students will begin to uncover hidden talents and interests that will inspire them and help them to not only solve problems, but also seek plausible solutions. He believes that these qualities would provide the poor with an escape route from the ongoing cycle that have them trapped and it will provide them with “a certain kind of life, a richness of mind and spirit.” (Page 5) After his first thriving year teaching this class, sixteen of his prospective students completed the course, which then some went on to universities.
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