An annotated bibliography of publications related to a humanities education for the community.

Prepared by W. Terry M.Ed.


Riches for the Poor, the Clemente Course in the Humanities by Earl Shorris published in 2000 by W.W. Norton & Company, New York.


Most of the free humanities programs in Canada, including University in the Community, were inspired by the Clemente Course in the Humanities.   Many became aware of Earl Shorris’ work by reading his article in Harper’s Magazine September 1997 titled “In the Hands of the Restless Poor.  University in the Community also had much deeper historical roots in  the Workers’ Educational Association of Canada, a founding partner of University in the Community.


Conferences that have documented free humanities programs in Canada include:

  • Canadian Radical Humanities Programs: The West Coast to the East Coast: Calgary, Alberta, October 4, 2008
  • The International Conference on the Liberal Arts: Looking Back and Moving Forward; The Next 100 Years of Arts-Confronting the Challenge, Session on “Stories of Dialogue: Collaborative Reflections from Directors of Free Humanities Programs” St. John’s New Brunswick  September 30th-Ocotber 2, 2010.
  • Community University Expo, Session “No Carrots, No Sticks: Free, non-credit university programs across Canada.” Cornerbrook NewfoundlandJune 13-15, 2013.


An American study that documents the need for humanities programs and cites the Clemente model; The Heart of the Matter, Report of the Commission on the Humanities and Social Sciences, The American Academy of Arts and Sciences, 2013



Union Learning, Canadian Labour Education in the Twentieth Century by Jeffery Taylor published in 2001 by Thompson Educational Publishing Inc. Toronto.


Jeffery Taylor, now with the University of Manitoba, formerly with AthabascaUniversity, details the role of the Workers’ Educational Association of Canada in developing university- centered labour education and union-centered education from 1918 to the mid-1900’s.   Unions brought union-centered education (trade union training) under their organizational control. In the mid 1900’s  university-centered labour education (University in the Community type programs) was marginalized.


Taylor also documents the work of Drummond Wren, a pioneering and innovative adult educator who was committed to “an autonomous educational body dedicated to teaching workers how to think critically” ( Sangster).


“Workers Educational Associations: Liberal Arts Leaning for Active Citizenship” by Wendy Terry published in Community and the World, Participating in Social Change, edited by Torry D. Dickson in 2003 by Nova Science Publishers Inc, New York.


Wendy Terry researched the marginalization of the WEA model of learning in North America in the mid 1900’s, at the height of McCarthyism. She examines what workers’ education brings to the countries where it continued to thrive—active citizenship and makes a case for the popularization of  liberal arts education today in order to become effective global citizens.


Civic Literacy: How Informed Citizens Make Democracy Work by Henry Milner published in 2002 by the University Press of New England, Hanover, New Hampshire.


Milner, a Canadian sociologist, with the University of Montreal, identifies the role of the WEA in Sweden as a key educational factor in enhancing civic literacy today. He defines civic literacy as “the knowledge, ability and capacity of citizens to make sense of their political world” Milner observed that the WEA has the most significant role in offering education to those who would be least likely to participate in adult education



The Intellectual Life of the British Working Classes  by Jonathan Rose in 2001 published by Yale University Press, New Haven, Connecticut

The Workers’ Educational Association was founded in 1903 in England.  Rose goes back in history to look at how the WEA affected the intellectual lives of the British working classes. He studied documents like workers’ diaries, autobiographies, letters to the editors and class evaluations; he documents how the workers themselves describe their intellectual life.  One of the contentions, as he calls it, around the WEA was the left felt it neutralized social activism as the worker would look at all sides of the question in order to understand it fully.  The right, on the other hand feared a liberal arts education would radicalize the students.  By citing the workers’ voices he dispels these ideas.  For example, George Norris, a student of the WEA for 22 years in Britain as quoted by Rose said what the WEA really did.  “Training in the art of thinking has equipped me to see through the shams and humbug that lurk behind the sensational headlines of the modern newspapers, the oratorical outpourings of insincere party  politicians and dictators, and the doctrinaire ideologies that stalk the world sowing hatred.”


Both the left and the right wanted to control workers’ education; it was and still is a struggle for autonomous workers’ education.


“The Struggle for Autonomous Workers’ Education: the Workers’  Educational Association of Ontario. 1917-1951” by Ian Radforth and Joan Sangster found in Knowledge for the People: the Struggle for Adult Learning in English-Speaking Canada, 1829-1973, edited by Michael R. Welton 1987, published by OISE Press. Toronto.


Joan Sangster, granddaughter of George Sangster and long time President of the WEA,  now with TrentUniversity and Ian Radforth with the University of Toronto, were the first academics to document the struggle of the WEA to provide a liberal arts education to the ordinary working person free of political agendas.  Joan addresses another aspect of the “contention “ around workers’ education that Rose addressed in his book.  Leaders of the trade unions, from where the WEA drew its students, feared a more informed rank and file.  As Socrates discovered, constant questioning  can be irritating if your political strategy for effecting change requires solidarity from the rank and file.