We don’t need no thought control

Montreal’s universities are often the centres of debate about the social, environmental and political issues which come closest to the hearts of students. But navigating the complicated network of activist organizations operating in and around our universities can be a daunting task, especially if you’re new to the city or school.
School Schmool is an annual “activist day planner and radical guide” released by the Quebec Public Interest Research Group, which aims to help students organize the vast sea of groups and issues surrounding them and strives to connect them with the ones they relate most to.
School Schmool’s co-ordinators Kerri Flannigan (Concordia University) and Kristin Li (McGill University) firmly believe that the planner and radical guide is a great resource for informing students on what’s happening on campus and in their community.
“I remember being a new student at Concordia University, very eager to get involved but not knowing where to look or how to start,” recalled Flannigan. “It can be intimidating for new students to get involved when they are faced with so many options. School Schmool attempts to make issues and the groups doing work around these issues more accessible and approachable.”
The planner/guide is divided into four segments. The “Resources” section tips off students about where to find useful things like health care resources, accessible spaces and a map of Montreal neighbourhoods.
“Issues” includes articles on subjects like access to education, ecological justice and independent media.  “Groups” connects students to the issues they read about in the previous section by listing and breaking down 100 Montreal-based organizations. Finally, a day planner is included for students to organize their busy lives.
“School Schmool was not an agenda when it first launched in 1994,” explained Flannigan. “It was a resource of social and environmental issues relating to McGill and Montreal. It was reborn out of QPIRG McGill in 2006 as an agenda and resource-based guide […] that people could carry with them daily.”
This year’s issue has grown significantly since last year. “The agenda is bigger both in size and page length,” said Flannigan. “It features over 100 community and student groups and projects, double the number of last year’s agenda.”
Despite its increase in size and content, the agenda remains available on a by-donation basis, leaving little excuse for students not to pick one up.
“It’s a solid resource to the city, with guides to practical information like places that offer low-cost mental health service and where to go for cheap eats around campus,” added Li. “It has thoughtfully written articles about issues that affect all of us. It’s also well-designed, beautifully illustrated, and free of advertising.”
A School Schmool website is also in the works, which will eventually include publicized events, pickup locations for the agenda as well as uploads of past and present issues.
The agenda is also a good tool for newcomers and students not previously aware of academic issues.
”School Schmool encourages students to become more active members of their campuses,” said Li. “Our articles and group profiles highlight the fact that new students are coming into their university at a particular historical junction, in the midst of ongoing debates, issues, campaigns, and projects. We’re hoping School Schmool will help provide the context for different aspects of the university that new students might be discovering for the first time.” 

Copies of School Schmool will be available as of Sept. 6 at QPIRG’s Concordia (1500 de Maisonneuve Blvd., suite 204) and McGill (3647 University St.) offices, as well as at QPIRG events and around Montreal.

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