“Knowledge Is Power:” Education is needed to fight poverty, crime

By Morgan W. Brown

Several years ago I advocated that courses in the humanities be offered and taught to those within Vermont who might have otherwise gone without the opportunities and benefits of these. For example: people living in poverty; people living homeless; persons incarcerated in jails, prisons or other institutions; people living in the throes of drug or alcohol addiction.

What I had been urging be established was for programs along the lines of the Clemente Course on the Humanities model, which was the brainchild of Earl Shorris. The title of his 2012 obituary within the New York Times mentioned that he had fought poverty with knowledge. It read, in part, about how he was “… a social critic and author whose interviews with prison inmates for a book inspired him to start a now nationally recognized educational program that introduces the poor and the unschooled to Plato, Kant and Tolstoy…”

One similar program’s success is Writing Inside Vermont (writinginsidevt.com). According to its website “[s]ince 2010, writing inside VT has forged trusting, pro-social relationships with more than 200 of Vermont’s incarcerated women.”

Does it take much more than simply providing courses in the humanities and the like in order to break the cycle(s) of poverty, homelessness, drug or alcohol addiction as well as crime and so on? Yes, indeed, it does.

However, if we do not understand and address the underlying causes as well as the ongoing cycle(s) of poverty, addiction, crime, homelessness and hopelessness we will never effectively break such cycles.

It has been my observation that when there are others who believe in the future of those most in need, such persons are in a much better position to begin to do so as well.

Although those previous advocacy efforts of mine a decade or so ago were not successful, it is still my hope that collegiate-level courses in the humanities will eventually be offered to those in need.

Morgan W. Brown is a member of the Vt. Council on Homelessness.

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