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May 04, 2009

Since when did we divorce the right answer from an honest answer?

Posted by Elaisha Stokes at 10:49 AM ET

Norman Cornett
Universities in Canada have been a source of political controversy for years. Increasing tuition fees, strikes that go unresolved for months, and conflicts between tenured professors are often the topics of nightly news reports. At times academia seems more like a political minefield that a sanctuary for the pursuit if higher learning.

Professor Norman Cornett, a new documentary by filmmaker Alanis Obomsawin, explores the wrongful dismissal of the professor Norman Cornett from McGill University in 2007. Cornett won the affection of many students with his unconventional teaching methods, which favored stream of conscious reflections over academic essays and standardized tests. He encouraged his students to explore diverse issues from a personal standpoint, and rejected the notion that academic pursuit much by an impersonal proposition. Unfortunately, McGill University did not share his views on unconventional teaching techniques and opted not extend his contract when it came up for renewal (Professor Cornett was not tenured faculty.)

Director Alanis Obomsawin, who is the subject of this years Hot Docs retrospective, explores the nature of what is means to learn through the story of Professor Cornett. Through the eyes of his excited and eager former students, Obosawin creates a touching and tender tribute to both the Professor and the virtues of an open minded and generous spirit. While this is a small film with a local perspective, it honors the spirit of the documentary medium, calling attention to a grave injustice, and building awareness on what it means to be truly educated.

Professor Norman Cornett will have its world premiere on May 8th at 9:30 PM at the Bader Theater in Toronto, Canada.

More entries on: Hot Docs festival


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