Higher Ed in the Halfway House

recent article from Stanford University’s in-house news service highlights a continuing ed program that has made humanities coursework an aid to both addiction recovery and the broader social stability needed to sustain it. The Hope House Scholars Program was founded in 2001 by Stanford philosophy profs Debra Satz and Rob Reich, who were inspired by the Clemente Course in the Humanities program founded by Earl Shorris in 1995. Each term, two Stanford profs team up to teach a course to the residents of Hope House, a residential drug and alcohol treatment facility for women, many of whom have recently been released from prison. The courses focus on themes including ethics, social justice, and moral responsibility. Each of the roughly 16 graduates per term receives college credit and a voucher for another continuing ed course. Corrie Goldman reports:

Wende C. is a grandmother who worked in banking for 27 years. She is also a crack addict who checked herself into Hope House, a residential drug and alcohol treatment facility in Redwood City, Calif., so she could learn the skills she needs to recover from her addiction.

As a resident in the all-female facility, she participated in group and individual therapy sessions, and health and nutrition seminars. She also attended a weekly humanities course.

Each session focused on one historical female figure, including medieval philosopher Hildegard of Bingen, poet Emily Dickinson, African American abolitionist Sojourner Truth and Hatshepsut, one of the most successful pharaohs of ancient Egypt.

At first, Wende wondered about the merit of studying “old and dead people,” but she said that learning about influential women made her feel “empowered” and helped her realize that it’s “OK for women to take a stand.”

One of the reasons I find this kind of program fascinating is the way it interacts with the humanist traditions built into the various mutual-aid and talk therapies used in recovery facilities and beyond.

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