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Tuesday, June 02, 2015

Adult Course Offers Learning For The Sake Of Learning by Beth Fertig

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"When we talk about higher education for the poor, we often mean community colleges and getting a degree in order to make more money. But 20 years ago, a writer in New York City decided that the poorest members of society should have the same access as wealthier people to learning, just for the sake of learning." reports Beth Fertig, the contributing editor for education, covering the New York City public school system for WNYC on air and online at

Photo: NPR

I visited one of these programs — called a Clemente course — in Harlem on a Thursday night.

"Can you live in a good life in a society where people are doing different things?" asks the teacher. 
 "Of course," replies a student.

Sitting in on a Clemente course is like watching a bunch of passionate freshman staying up all night in their dorm debating an assignment.

But rather than a room full of teenagers, the students ranged in age from mid-20s to their 70s. They have to be low-income to attend and they are all interviewed before being accepted.

Among the nearly 30 students in this class, there's a rape survivor who says she suffers from panic attacks. There's a former inmate who's now a prison reform advocate. And there are several working mothers like Renee Mitchell.

"I was so freaking nervous," Mitchell says, "because I felt so dumb. You know, I felt like I was too old."

Mitchell is a secretary who came to this class, held at a Harlem social service agency, last fall. The Clemente course is for low-income adults wishing to study philosophy, history and art. She thought it could help her get a college degree, and earn more money. But Mitchell recalls how hard it was when she tried to write her first philosophy paper.

Source: NPR

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