Professor Norman Cornett: “Since when do we divorce the right answer from an honest answer?” (2009)

Norman_Cornet_2In the following feature presentation of the National Film Board of Canada, First Nations filmmaker Dr. Alanis Obomsawin narrates and produced a forcefully inspiring documentary on the unorthodox McGill Professor Norman Cornett and the injustices of his abrupt dismissal at McGill University in 2007.

The documentary entitled “Professor Norman Cornett: ‘Since when do we divorce the right answer from an honest answer?'” chronicles the life-changing and student-centric pedagogical approaches Professor Cornett employed to release his students from the regurgitative type of academic study onto an academic study that tapped into their own voices and abilities to critically examine issues in a openly discursive environment.

The “classroom”, he argued, “should be a community”, where “education is a communal project based on dialogue” and open, raw conversations. The proper pedagogical approach for an already critical young generation is one where there is a “dialogical session” in which the teacher as well as the student learn from each other. The student in this conception is not simply an empty vessel — or a recipient of knowledge — but a person with thoughts, a social makeup and obligations as well as skills that must be put in practice. Students must be put into field situations to reflect, express and learn of each other.

In 2007, Professor Cornett was abruptly dismissed after 15 years of teaching without justification from his post at McGill University. Court battles ensued over the fairness and the justice of the dismissal. To date, McGill University has yet to produce an explanation as to the dismissal of Professor Cornett.

An online petition emerged on June 2007 and was signed by 747 students, filmmakers, professors and legal professionals. The online petition can be found here.

We strongly encourage our readers at Integrating Horizons to join us in signing the petition to reinstate Professor Cornett at McGill University. Professor Cornett’s provides an exemplary model of courage, justice and pedagogical innovation that we hope to develop in our approach at Integrating Horizons.  

Professor Cornett continues to provide dialogic sessions outside the university curriculum in various public spaces. For future events, check out his personal website

PS. It is with heartfelt sadness that inform our readers that Laura, featured in the video, passed away in 2010 after a lengthy battle with cancer.

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