A typical Harvard course may host renowned authors, environmentalists, and politicians from around the world, but the speakers featured in Thursday’s Sociology 149: “Inequality, Poverty, and Wealth in Comparative Perspective” spend most of their time on the streets right outside the campus gates.
These speakers, three members of Cambridge’s homeless population, were invited by Sociology Lecturer Patrick Hamm to share their experiences of poverty with the students in his class—a study of the sources and consequences of inequality in America.
The Harvard Crimson covered Patrick’s class last Thursday. In all my time at Harvard, I’ve never witnessed anything like this before, and the experience was truly transformative for all involved. I would love to see more college courses on inequality encouraging students to engage with the real world and to not just theorize about social problems but to personally get to know those affected. They’re not Harvard graduates, but the panelists from Thursday know more than any policymaker or Ivy League professor about the experience of homelessness and how their community needs should be best addressed. At the end of the lecture, Patrick gave his students the following assignment: talk to homeless people that they encounter in their local neighborhood. It’s something that both of us have been doing for some time and have found a great deal of meaning and inspiration from. I hope others are inspired to do the same :)