David Noble (easy version)

In March 2001, David Noble was teaching at York University in Toronto, Canada. His subject was the history of technology. He was a good teacher. He had written many books and articles about his subject. Before he came to York he had had good jobs at important universities in the United States.

A few months earlier, David had applied for a better job at Simon Fraser University in western Canada. He had been given interviews there. He had been interviewed by other teachers in the part of the university where his subject was taught. After this interview, the boss of that part of the university, Stephen Duguid, had told David that he was going to be given the job. Stephen also told David that, first, the people at the top of the university would have to agree, but he didn't think that was going to be a problem.

However, it was a problem. A week later, Stephen phoned David and told him that the university was going to do a "check" on him. David was not really surprised to hear this. When he had applied for the job, he had been afraid that even if the other teachers had wanted him to give it to him, the people at the top of the university would not agree. He was worried about this because, in some of his writing he had criticized two things that were very important to Simon Fraser University. These two things were, first, "online education" and, second, the "commercialization" of universties. "Online education" means giving university courses over the internet. The "commercialization" of universities means running a university as if it were a business.

David thought that online education was a bad thing because he believed that real education has to be "face-to-face." He believed that the “commercialization” of universities was a bad thing because in his opinion, students and educators should always be looking for truth and understanding. Businesses, in his opinion, were never interested in truth and understanding.

By 2001, most universities were giving online courses. However, Simon Fraser had gone farther than others. It had started a money-making company called "Virtual U." Virtual U was part of the university but its purpose was to make money by writing and selling software that other universities could use for giving courses on the internet. Apart from making general criticisms of online education and the commercialization of education in his writing, David had specifically criticized Virtual U and the people who were running it.

When Stephen told David that the university was going to do a check on him, he also told him the names of the people who would be doing the checking. David had specifically criticized all these people in his writing. One of them was the boss of Virtual U.

About a month after he was told there was going to be a check, David was told that the university had decided not to give him the job. Many of the teachers at Simon Fraser were unhappy about what happened. One explained why by saying that, at a university, everyone should be able to say what they think even if the people at the top disagree with them.

-information from: The National Post (Toronto, Canada) 01.03.31, 01.05.01, 01.05.29, 01.05.31(97.10.03)

a piece of writing in a newspaper or magazine

making something into a business (The verb form is “commercialize.”)

say what you think is wrong about a person or thing. (The noun form is “criticism.”

talk with someone to see if they are the right person for a job (can be used as a noun or a verb).

on the internet

written instructions that get a computer to do something; a “program”

a machine or method used to make something or do something