Re: “Dr. Cornett’s favorite play? Monty Python’s Spamalot.” by Anait Keuchguerian (9.2.10)
Under the banner of academic transparency, a recent student letter advocated the screening of Alanis Obomsawin’s documentary about the remarkable teaching style of Norman Cornett, a professor whom McGill let go three years ago. Perhaps because the letter contained a lengthy, and probably misconceived, disquisition on the various meanings of transparency, the editorial staff at the Tribune entitled the letter: “Dr. Cornett’s favourite play? Monty Python’s Spamalot.” This was no doubt intended as an exasperated comment on the volume of letters that the Tribune receives concerning him. It seems that the Tribune has missed the point: if normally apathetic university students are writing letters frequently enough to bother the Trib, maybe their insistence indicates a matter of great importance.
I believe this is a question of character for McGill, a question of how many ideas it is able to house. Cornett’s style of teaching is indeed unorthodox; that unorthodoxy has helped open many minds to new and wonderful ideas, which seems to me the quintessence of education. McGill has deemed this style unworthy of a place in its constellation of opportunities, an unfortunate error that has made this excellent institution a lesser place. Many McGill students, as well as luminaries in a number of different fields, have recognized Cornett’s classes for what they are: a transformative educational experience. They have protested the administration’s decision and will continue to push for its re-evaluation. A key step along the way is for people who haven’t had the privilege of being taught by Cornett to see what his classes are like, and Obomsawin’s documentary provides a compelling introduction. I therefore join those who are calling for an on-campus screening. McGill students have much to gain by finding out just what they are missing. (Ed. note – A screening of Obomsawin’s documentary will be presented at 7 p.m. on March 22 in LEA 132.)