Humanities 101—Hum—is a 17-year-old Community Programme and the oldest programme of its kind in Canada. Supported by residents of Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside and Downtown South (DTES/South), it is sponsored by the University of British Columbia’s Office of the Dean of Arts and private donations, largely from UBC alumni. Participants are people with diverse backgrounds and knowledge who are geographically situated in the DTES/South and nearby areas and are working to overcome obstacles and roadblocks—financial, institutional, educational, governmental, health and social.
Hum attracts education activists who are participants, alumni, volunteer teachers, facilitators and supporters, and is committed to being responsive and situated. Along with four free university-level courses which are grounded in relevant, interdisciplinary critical and creative thinking practices (Humanities 101 (2 terms), Humanities 201 (2 terms), Writing 101 (1 term offered twice a year) and Writing 201 (1 term offered twice a year)), Hum also runs Public Programmes in the DTES/South initiated and led by participants and alumni: study groups, workshops and an alumnus-led documentary film series now in its tenth year. All past and current participants are invited to be involved in these ongoing Public Programmes as well as Hum’s Steering Committee which meets regularly and guides all aspects of the Programme.
For some people, Hum is a catalyst for self-knowledge that inspires and activates—if the moment’s right, it can help to get momentum going. The courses are a dedicated time and space for inquiry and an opportunity to meet like-minded people who love learning. This mix of people coming together, giving and taking knowledge, are in reciprocal relationships of learning based on their own expertise and also open to new visions. In class and in Public Programmes, there is a mutual flow and exchange of a variety of knowledge and responses to ideas, and this goes for everyone involved—participants, volunteer teachers and facilitators and staff. For participants, there are no pre-requisites, so you start where you are. Some have travelled through the eye of a storm in their lives, persevered and refuse to allow themselves to be restricted from education, further learning and ways of being.
There are more than 820 Hum alumni and many more people enmeshed in the handful of sister programmes across Canada and similar courses elsewhere. Along with the current focus on responsible relationships between communities and universities, and international interest in freeing education, Hum is part of several movements….