This is Naomi Schaeffer Riley's review of The Art of Freedom: Teaching Humanities to the Poor, by Earl Shorris. In the book, Shorris describes his efforts to establish a set of courses to teach the core texts of Western civilization to people living in poverty and whose school experience had scanted the canon or skipped it entirely. An impractical, even useless effort, right? Not! Here is one reason why:
Shorris recounts the story of a young man in his first class—a 24-year-old with a history of violent behavior—who called him describing how a woman at work had provoked him. "She made me so mad, I wanted to smack her up against the wall. I tried to talk to some friends to calm myself down a little, but nobody was around." Shorris asked him what he did, "fearing this was his one telephone call from the city jail." Instead, he told Shorris, "I asked myself, 'What would Socrates do?' "