What We Study

Free Minds offers a two-semester course in the humanities, introducing students to works that are central to the study of literature, American history, philosophy, and theater. Free Minds students practice critical thinking and group discussion and work closely with program faculty to prepare for the college-level writing required in subsequent classes. Each year, students make several class excursions to attend theater performances and tour museums. Local artists and writers visit the class, as well as other faculty members and experts.

What are the Humanities?

The humanities encompass a variety of disciplines, such as literature, history, philosophy, film, art history, and the performing arts, all of which grapple with the big questions about what it means to be human. In effective humanities classrooms, students are asked to think seriously about how we should balance individual fulfillment with the good of the group–or about how the past informs the present. Humanities students might ask, what role does culture play in shaping one’s view of life? Or what constitutes moral action?

In education circles, the humanities have also come to stand for a broad base of knowledge, cultural literacy, analytical and communication skills. In contrast to courses that teach highly particular skills (such as a course in computer programming or swimming or sewing), humanities courses are aimed at teaching the more general skills of critical thinking, writing, speaking, and listening. We believe that these skills stand to benefit all members of society, cutting across occupation, caste, culture, gender, and race.

What We Read

The reading list below reflects a sample of the poems, plays, novels, philosophical works, and historical documents Free Minds students read and discussed between 2006 and 2014.

  • The Arabian Nights
  • “Brown vs. the Board of Education,” court case
  • The Declaration of Independence
  • The Epic of Gilgamesh
  • The letters of John Adams and Abigail Adams
  • Sandra Cisneros, The House on Mango Street
  • Frederick Douglass, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, American Slave
  • W. E. B. DuBois, “The Talented Tenth”
  • Euripides, The Trojan Women
  • Benjamin Franklin, “Notes Concerning the Savages of North America”
  • Lorraine Hansberry, A Raisin in the Sun
  • Homer, The Odyssey
  • Zora Neale Hurston, “How It Feel to Be Colored Me”
  • Shirley Jackson, “The Lottery”
  • Tony Kushner, Angels in America
  • Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird
  • Arthur Miller, Death of a Salesman
  • Toni Morrison, Beloved
  • Tim O’Brien, The Things They Carried
  • Plato, The Republic
  • William Shakespeare, Macbeth

Our Syllabi

Click below to view syllabi from current and previous semesters.

Syllabus Fall 2022

Syllabus Spring 2022
Syllabus Fall 2021
Syllabus Spring 2020
Syllabus Fall 2019
Syllabus Fall 2018
Syllabus Spring 2018
Syllabus Fall 2017
Syllabus Fall 2016

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