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Note: All events are free to attend, but donations to support this conference and more events related to alternative pedagogy are welcome!

To find the conference locations
Check the following map links

Ottawa Public Library (120 Metcalfe St.)
University of Ottawa Campus map

Monday, November 5th

Guest speaker: David Noble
When: 6:30-9pm (doors open at 6pm)
Where: Ottawa Public Library Auditorium (corner of Laurier and Metcalfe streets)

“Breaking the Rules”

Rules are created by and for those who rule. Those who rule rarely follow the rules which are designed for others. These rules are taught in school. There are two paths to education. One is by learning and observing the rules (constructive theory of knowledge). The other is by breaking the rules (deconstructive theory of knowledge). The challenging of the rules reveals the rulers.

In an autobiographical account Noble will trace his own lifelong experience along the second path, what he has learned about what lays behind the rules, and how to challenge them effectively. How to move from whining to winning.

Tuesday, November 6th

Guest speaker: John Taylor Gatto
When: 6:30-9pm (doors open at 6pm)
Where: Ottawa Public Library Auditorium (corner of Laurier and Metcalfe streets)

“Weapons of Mass Instruction”


In this presentation, John Taylor Gatto puts forth a surgically specific critique of the damages inflicted by the structure of schooling, and then proposes a corrective based on open-source learning, which he calls “Walkabout London”.


Walkabout London, based on Richard Branson’s story of his own success, is an exploration of the idea of open-source learning– which for the computer generation would focus on the Internet. Gatto does not centre his talk on the Internet, as it forms only a piece of the answer, but draws from a variety of learning tools and resources.


This talk clarifies the distinction between education and schooling, understanding that real learning cannot be based on memorizing sets of rules and “facts” presented abstractly in a classroom setting. Instead, Gatto proposes what an alternative to this system might look like– not necessarily an alternative type of school, but abandoning the idea of schooling altogether.

Wednesday, November 7th

Workshop Day
Where: University of Ottawa campus, Institute for Women’s Studies (143 Séraphin-Marion), room 205

11:30am-1pm: Militarization and Education, by Marymay Downing, Ph.D, Professor

1:30-3pm: Questioning the Competitive Model: unLearning Sports Education, by Justin Barca

3:30-5pm: Infiltrating a Zionist program in the hole-y land: unveiling the truth of Palestine through self-education and exposure from within, by Naomi, deschooler from Wisconsin

Democratic Schools Film Night
When: 6:30-9pm (doors open at 6pm)
Where: Ottawa Public Library Auditorium (corner of Laurier and Metcalfe streets)
“Democratic Schools: A Film About the Desire to Learn” (35 minutes) and “Longview School: Democracy in Action” (two 25-minute documentaries)

Thursday, November 8th

Guest speaker: Cindy Milstein
When: 6:30-9pm (doors open at 6pm)
Where: Ottawa Public Library Auditorium (corner of Laurier and Metcalfe streets)

“Education for freedom”

In the 1930s, Italian anarchist Errico Malatesta wrote that our task is to embolden “people to demand and to seize all the freedom they can.” The way forward, in his view, was via “provoking and encouraging by propaganda and action, all kinds of individual and collective initiatives. It is in fact a question of education for freedom,” he asserted, “of making people who are accustomed to obedience and passivity consciously aware of their real power and capabilities. One must encourage people to do things for themselves.” Many others on the libertarian Left—from anarchists to council communists to autonomists—have stressed education as key for fundamental social transformation or revolution. But for anarchists in particular, education has always been a crucial prefigurative path for getting from “here” to “there,” from a hierarchical society to an increasingly egalitarian and humane one. The process of how we educate ourselves and others, and the organizational forms we use to do that, is already part of the better world we’re building, or minimally should point toward it. And such experiments should combine the two interrelated poles of anarchism itself: a social critique and a social vision, precisely to strive for a free society of free individuals.

In this talk and discussion, I’ll explore some hopeful examples of the integration of engaged thinking and doing, such as developing horizontal models of anti-authoritarian scholarship, popular education, and radical public debate and decision-making. Some of these case studies—but not all—will include projects from my own experience, such as the Free Society Collective, the Institute for Anarchist Studies, and the Institute for Social Ecology.

Friday, November 9th

Guest speakers: Tara Guenette and Julie Lalonde (from Miss G_ Project, Carleton University Chapter)
When: 7:30-10pm (doors open at 6pm)
Where: University of Ottawa, MacDonald Hall room 146

“12 Million Voices: Intersectionality in Education”

Our goal is to reclaim the diversity of voices in Ontario secondary schools. We will examine the current reality in Ontario schools, look at possible solutions (there is hope!) and discuss the role of the Miss G_ Project in bringing equity to the current education system.





Saturday, November 10th

Guest speaker: Matt Hern
When: 4:30-6:30pm (doors open at 4pm)
Where: University of Ottawa campus, Colonel By Hall room C03

“Possibility in the Face of Probability”

Our institutions, especially those we build for children, both reflect and construct society. If we want a more democratic, respectful and equal world, then we need to create relationships and institutions that reflect that. We cannot just be telling, or teaching children how to behave, or what good citizenship looks like, they need to be living it right from the start. They need to be experiencing and learning how to create democracy, respect and egalitarian relationships.

Community is the most important arena for political and cultural life: it is in the experience of place, of neighbourhood and local community that genuine, participatory democracy can flourish. Thus we need to be creating semi-permeable institutions, integrated into community and family life, not isolated. Women, children and families need to be involved in every level of community life, not warehoused away from active life.

We need to be moving towards diversity, not away from it. A good community can accept and integrate a pluralism of values: that is a diversity of viewpoints and values, and not just about minor things, but fundamental things. Thus in every community there should be a variety of institutions for kids reflecting a diversity of viewpoints, needs and learning styles. Educators, families and kids need to come together to create democratically controlled sites reflecting the wide variety of children.

We cannot reduce learning, however, to the practice of teaching. Learning cannot just be about filling kids up with canonical knowledge: we need to be constantly asking what it will take for these kids to thrive. Not the abstract kids of theory, but the actual kids right in front of us.

There is no method, no guru, no system that we can turn to for the answers. No one knows how kids grow up best: there are many models and examples we can use for inspiration, but we have to be creating and recreating our own pedagogies of liberation. As Paulo Freire said: “Knowledge emerges only through invention and reinvention, through the restless, impatient, continuing, hopeful inquiry human beings pursue in the world, with the world and with each other.” Families and children need every opportunity to pursue that constructive inquiry within community life.

This suggests a pedagogy that is not child centred, but community centred, one that seeks to liberate the family and community, not just the child. The practice of freedom has to be about social freedom, that is a freedom towards something, not simply an individualist freedom from something. Pedagogical and political freedoms are closely linked: they are the practice of self determination.

Followed by:

6:30pm-7:30pm: Dinner (free, 2$ donations welcome) provided by the People’s Republic of Delicious

7:30pm-10pm: Caucus

All interested participants will come together for an open discussion (or series of discussions) of the various themes and issues brought up over the course of the week. This will be a great time to begin applying the new ideas we have learned as we discuss how to take action to effectively “unschool oppression” in our own city.



1. krishna - October 16, 2007

looks great!
do you have topic titles or summaries?

2. Mariana Abeid-McDougall - October 18, 2007

Is a registration required for the conference, or can we just show up to the different lectures?


3. unschoolingoppression - October 18, 2007


we will add more titles and summaries in the upcoming days.

as for registration, none is required. we have a capacity of at least 150 attendees for each lecture.


4. Martin Barlosky - November 2, 2007

Is there a fee for conference participation? Is advanced registration required? If there is a fee and advanced registration, can students who cannot take part in the full conference pay to attend individual presentations? Thanks for responding to these questions.

5. Tyler Durden - November 4, 2007

wow, and how ironic it is that i can’t come out to listen to these brilliant speeches because of work – the older brother of schooling.

we’ll see about that…

6. Abigail - November 4, 2007

Will John Taylor Gatto begin speaking right at 6:30, or will someone be introducing him and/or speaking before him?


7. naomi sparrow - November 4, 2007

This looks so great. I wish I had know about it earlier, so I could plan to be there for the whole thing, set up childcare… I am an un-schooling mom, so some kind of advertizing and outreach beyond the university would have been apprecieated! I got a little note in my HBLN (home based learners network) e-mail yesterday.


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