Article used with permission from Anchorage Daily News for educational purposes only.
In May, essayist Earl Shorris came to town to promote his ideas for teaching the humanities to disadvantaged people. Arguing that what keeps the poor poor is their lack of access to the tools of analysis and negotiation provided to the wealthy who receive exposure to the liberal arts in upscale universities.
Shorris' method, known as the Clemente Course, provides that same college experience to low income people in communities around America and, increasingly, the world.
Contacted by e-mail, the New York writer enthused over the inauguration of a Clemente Course in Anchorage next year. "Steve Lindbeck (head of the sponsoring Alaska Humanities Forum) is one of the most active and effective promoters of the humanities I've ever met," Shorris wrote.
"But the best news comes from the other side of the Kuskokwim Mountains," he continued, where a group led by Mike Williams, Cecelia Martz, Elsie Mather, Joe Slats, Lucy Sparck, Willie Kasayulie and six elders, at least, are putting together a course to be presented in Bethel and Akiak.
He explained that this course will present Clemente material "in the way Cup'ik\Yup'ik culture integrates the disciplines. Literature cannot be separated from dance or dance-song and history cannot be separated from ethics; nor can literature or custom be separated from ethics."
Clemente teacher Miguel Angel May May traveled to Bethel from Yucatan, Mexico, to meet with the group and share ways that Clemente material has been incorporated into a humanities curriculum for Mayans, information of interest to the team arranging to present the program for Yup'ik and Cup'ik people.
In addition to traveling the country to promote the course and participate in various conferences on the humanities, Shorris is also coediting the new "Norton Anthology of Mesoamerican Literature," continuing work on a long book on Mexico and finishing a novel to be published by Norton in 2000.
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