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Professor Norman Cornett: "Since when do we divorce the right answer from an honest answer?"

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Professor Norman Cornett – “Since when do we divorce the right answer from an honest answer?”  
It’s the start of a new semester and a fresh crop of undergraduates is filing into Professor Norman Cornett’s class.

There is a growing sense of curiosity in the room as Cornett distributes the lyrics to Another Brick in the Wall and then leads the students in a rousing rendition of the counter-culture anthem: “We don’t need no thought control…”

This is not what they were expecting from Religious Studies.

Over the years Professor Cornett has won the respect and loyalty of scores of students with his unconventional approach to teaching. Whether it’s a lesson on palliative care, First Nations issues or jazz improvisation, he challenges accepted wisdom while nurturing young people at a pivotal moment in their lives and teaching them to think for themselves.

“The class did demand a lot of my time. But, once you got into it, it was so worth it. We did it with great joy.”– Student

Through “dialogic” sessions Cornett has introduced students to a remarkable assortment of artists and judges, Talmudic scholars and philosophers. Among his guest speakers: the former prime minister Paul Martin, jazzman Oliver Jones, modern dance artist and choreographer Mariko Tanabe and Alanis Obomsawin, Canada’s leading Indigenous filmmaker. 

With her own keen interest in how society educates its young, Obomsawin responds to McGill’s controversial 2007 dismissal of Cornett with a tribute to this exceptional professor. Taking the unusual step of turning her camera on a non-Native subject, she draws upon the energy of Cornett’s young supporters to reflect upon the virtues of an open mind and generous spirit.


2009, 80 min 42 s