The Clemente Course was founded in 1995 by nationally acclaimed writer and activist, Earl Shorris, who believes that studying the humanities will re-connect marginalized citizens to their communities and that as a result, they will become more civically engaged, proactive members of their communities. Students seeking admission should be low income, over 17 years old, and able to read a newspaper in English. Students who complete the Course in good standing will receive 6 transferable credits from Bard College in New York.
Since its inception, the Clemente Course has been replicated world wide, from Mayan Villages in Mexico to Internally Displaced Persons camps in Darfur. The focus of each course is the intellectual foundation of its own culture, although there are some classic texts read by all Clemente students.