As the mayhem of the semester engulfs students, many find it difficult to keep track of their busy schedule. A planner can help with that. School Schmool, a multi-purpose agenda published yearly by the Quebec Public Interest Research Group (QPIRG) at McGill and Concordia, aims to do exactly that and more.
Presented as “your radical guide to your often unradical school,” School Schmool aims to bring together the activist student communities from McGill, Concordia, and Montreal at large. Aside from an agenda section, the 2016-2017 issue of School Schmool features poetry and visual artwork submitted by local artists and writers. The book also features articles addressing social justice issues, such as gender and racial equality, and a list of groups and resources available to Montreal students. These include health and counselling services, and student activist groups like the Union for Gender Empowerment.
The agenda is just one of QPIRG McGill’s many social-justice oriented projects and endeavours. The student-run non-profit organization is the Quebec branch of Public Interest Research Groups, which began to emerge in the early 1970s in university campuses across the U.S. and Canada. As explained in the planner, QPIRG “conducts research, education, and action on environmental and social justice issues at McGill University and in the Montreal community.”
School Schmool already has an extensive history as a QPIRG project, as it dates back to 1994. At the time, it was an independent bi-annual publication, which included group profiles, articles, and resources for Montreal students, especially those interested in the social and environmental justice issues central to QPIRG’s mandate. When the project was revived in 2006, it followed those same principles while adding a second focus: The agenda. School Schmool now aims to be the ultimate tool to track both students’ busy academic and activist schedules.
For QPIRG McGill’s Outreach Coordinator and recent McGill graduate Raphaële Frison, School Schmool has retained its original purpose, while expanding upon it.
“[School Schmool] was revived as more of an agenda, but still has that original idea of being a resource guide,” Frison said. “We have articles, mixtapes, music suggestions, recipes, astrology. All sorts of things.”
As a collaborative project between the McGill and Concordia branches of QPIRG, School Schmool is representative of the united and diverse activist community that surrounds the organizations. The variety of material featured in the agenda illustrates QPIRG’s efforts to educate and engage students in justice issues that affect the community. For example, an article on intersectional feminism is followed by a “beginner’s guide to herbalism.” The planner also offers tips for the everyday life of a student. The “Super Broke-Ass Guide to Montreal: Students” offers advice in a tone that ranges from straightforward to hilariously enlightening, listing tips such as, “live with lots of roommates,” or “scam yuppies, [because…] yuppies will pay a shit ton of money for things you might already be doing,” or even, “sabotage your local bank/government office/university administration building,” just for fun.
As an agenda, School Schmool has to compete with the many other options supplied by McGill and Concordia, as well as all those found in mainstream stationery stores. The planner’s editorial board pinpoints this competition as one of the reasons for the creation of the alternative planner.
“School Schmool was created because people felt that agendas provided by McGill were way too capitalist,” Annie Chen, a co-coordinator of this year’s issue and recent McGill graduate, said. “They had too many ads which were featured, dependent on having the financial resources to buy ads.”
By being financially independent, School Schmool editors aim to banish what they perceive as an endless capitalist system perpetuated by the alternatives provided by other student organizations and departments.
“I contributed a couple bucks for the agenda because it really matters to me that it’s ad free,” Aidan Gilchrist-Blackwood, U3 Arts student and owner of a School Schmool agenda, said. “To me, the financial model shows that collectively-financed and collectively-supported projects can work, which I think is an especially important message in the context of austerity.”
School Schmool’s success supersedes a simple opposition to the capitalist system; it aims to act as a comprehensive activist tool for the university student. Chen estimates that the latest edition of the agenda is one of QPIRG’s most successful yet.
“The agenda goes beyond what’s been done with previous publications,” Chen said. “The activist purpose of the project has only gotten stronger over time. One of the mandates of School Schmool is to provide students with things they would never learn otherwise, and I think we’ve achieved that.”
Students who have purchased the agenda also find that School Schmool is not only a useful organizing tool, but also a successfully informative project.
“I really love the texts,” Gilchrist-Blackwood said. “I feel like I’ve learned a lot through them about the organizing context of McGill and Montreal.”
By combining a helpful planner section with engaging artwork and instructive resources about social justice issues of concern for students, School Schmool transcends the purpose of a simple agenda and becomes an essential tool in the arsenal of all politically-dedicated students.
School Schmool 2016-2017 is still available at various locations across McGill—including the QPIRG Office, Midnight Kitchen, and Organic Campus—and across Concordia, while in stock.