Free David Weale

Thoughtful comments from readers. Thank you. If you’ve not been following the story on the CBC, the latest is that David has been removed from his teaching position.

The reaction from the University of PEI reminds me of an episode at the public debate held by the CBC on the bootlegger issue several years ago: a local restaurant owner stood and spoke about all the “negative publicity” the issue was creating for the city in the national media. Say what you will about bootlegging, the publicity it gave Charlottetown was net positive; not only because “any publicity is good publicity,” but also because it telegraphed to the world that Charlottetown is, well, unique.

David Weale’s actions, taken, he says, to focus attention on large class sizes, are, if anything, a net positive for UPEI too: they telegraph to the world that professors at the institution care about teaching so much that they’ll go to great lengths — crazy, outlandish lengths — to point out the extent of the problem.

If the University was smart — and could muster a sense of humour — it could have effectively handled this situation by admitting that David’s concerns are real, laughing off “the 70% deal” as a publicity stunt, and promising to work to address the situation. As it is, the administration comes across as a group of dour prigs, obsessed with an artificial “excellence” construct that is appealing only to passionless technocrats.


Ken Williams's picture
Ken Williams on January 26, 2006 - 03:31 Permalink

Your use of the word dour is bang on. Further to your point about any publicity being good publicity I have to agree. I learned from the CBC article that UPEI students are ranked third, and UPEI prof’s are ranked first in Canada.

I submitted the CBC URL to story to but they didn’t post it as a headline. Has any PEI news story ever been posted on Drudge? PEI may be the only Drudge free state/province in North America! How unsensational is that?

Professor Weale has a lot of class!

Alan's picture
Alan on January 26, 2006 - 14:07 Permalink

Aside from the question of a community that measures itself by the volume of attention it gets in the press elsewhere, your analogy fails to take into account that dead guy at the bootlegger’s bar and the failure of Weale to go to outlandish lengths to teach rather than not teach. Net positive should not be good enough.

Cyn's picture
Cyn on January 26, 2006 - 14:09 Permalink

Let me know when the “Free Wealey” buttons are done up. I’ll wear one.

Kevin O'Brien's picture
Kevin O'Brien on January 26, 2006 - 19:25 Permalink

Perhaps it’s not all that unusual in PEI but I know the players in this story. David Weale and I have lunched about a wide range of topics. It is my feeling that PEI is lucky to have David. He’s a tremendous intellect, wit, and prankster (the “Rocky” hat, a la Rocky & Bulwinkle, seems to betray this a triffle).

Richard Curial is a brilliant man. We’ve riffed spontaneous improv over beers, held court on Cable 10’s Point of View, and always had a great time fooling around. He’s not incapable of a sense of humour which would have served him better, I think, than the law-and-order stance he took; you’re absolutely right about that Pete.

(Faculty Assn Pres) Wayne Peters was a serious student at UPEI when I was the other kind. Regardless, I was all ‘law and order’ back then. Plenty of students thought I was too serious about what would be called “professional behaviours” (I’m fairly sure he agreed). Generally they thought that whole thing ought to be taken more loosely. Ironically, Wayne and I have switched sides.

But, what’s going on with my friend Richard? He chairs the Premier’s Task Force on Closing Small Schools (my interpretation) which seems to be promoting the idea of standardized testing. Richard (and Mr. Binns), it’s far more important that kids know stuff than we know they know it.

Anyway, I’m used to Richard’s hard-right-leaning views of the world. What’s astonishing is that he’s a pure conservative who can intelligently defend Conservative philosophy — mostly conservatives rely on slogans and “you’re not rich enough to understand” type thinking; but not Curial.

Anyway, count me among those who are absolutely and solidly behind Weale in this — not that I agree with exactly what he was doing but that the response is so outrageous as to warrant him a full pardon and a beer.

The Journal Pioneer's picture
The Journal Pioneer on January 26, 2006 - 19:54 Permalink

Thursday, January 26, 2006
First do no harm

Doctors take an oath

June's picture
June on January 27, 2006 - 01:36 Permalink

It doesn’t matter that he’s trying to make a point about the fact that his class size was too much. He was under contract to the university as a lecturer to provide instruction to the students and evaluate their performance by assigning a grade as per the university’s established standards (which are tied to the Cdn. assoc. of universities & colleges). If he fails to meet these standards (as he did here), then his employment gets terminated. Period.

Why should other students have to sweat it out in courses to earn their mark the proper way when these slackers can take a bird course (which Prof. Weale is known for giving) and not even show up to get the credit? C’mon! Perhaps I should go and sign up for Accute Stroke Management at Dal Med and then get the credit for not showing up… only with an arts program would someone like Weale attempt this (and I’m an arts grad).

Send the Yankee draft dodger and their ilk back to Nixon’s-Clinton’s-Bush’s America where he/they belong(s).

headscratcher's picture
headscratcher on January 27, 2006 - 02:40 Permalink

..send the Yankee draft dodger and their ilk back to Nixon’s-Clinton’s-Bush’s America where he/they belong.

Whoa. Pardon the religious reference but before we crucify Prof. Weale perhaps we should stop and ask ourselves what punishment or sanction if any has come the way of the students who took the deal? How about the University itself for overselling the course and apparently not taking corrective action? For that matter, how bang up a job is the University doing monitoring its courses if this was taking place right under everyone’s noses?

I’m not saying what Prof Weale did was right but rather that without more information there would appear to be no angels in this story. In the rush to throw Weale under the bus some of these questions seem to have been overlooked.

oliver's picture
oliver on January 27, 2006 - 03:40 Permalink

My mom was a TA for (fairly famous) philosopher Paul Feyerabend at UC Berkeley and told me once that he used to make the same offer as Weale, but with A’s. I don’t know if the lesson from that is that your university lets you do what you want if you’re famous enough, or that that was Berkeley in the ‘60’s.

Weale the Wanker's picture
Weale the Wanker on January 27, 2006 - 04:20 Permalink

I agree completely with “The Journal Pioneer” and “June” above; if Weale didn’t want a class with 100 students in it he could have brought it up with the university before, and if they didn’t comply he could have made a big public stink — instead of making UPEI graduates’ degrees look second rate! I am currently a student at UPEI, and I was waiting impatiently for the university to remove Weale before they did — the longer they left it the more harm it did to students’ and other professors’ reputations.
If UPEI would have failed to act, I assure you that pissed off students, including myself, would have started a petition to have him removed ourselves! All of this talk about Weale being an “intellectual” is a gross exaggeration, the man has been spewing the same lame-ass “Islandisms” his whole career and is frankly, a washed up has-been!

Kevin O'Brien's picture
Kevin O'Brien on January 27, 2006 - 16:00 Permalink

Yankee draft-doger”? June, Weale’s an Islander. Which perhaps, accounts for “Islandisms” (W.T.Wanker) and a whole lot of other annoying things that we call home.

At the risk of gassing the flames, who are all you anonymous posters? Perhaps just gutless huh? Ah the grotesque certainty of youth — you’ll grow out of it.

Dr. James Austin's picture
Dr. James Austin on January 28, 2006 - 20:34 Permalink

Being a former student of David Weale myself I feel the need to make comment here. It must be said that UPEI is indeed very lucky to have one such as David Weale to be teaching at the University.

He is one of the few professors whose classes I must always say are a pleasure to take. One of the few professors I have met who has the ability to change a persons entire world view. Indeed, if I were to be asked a list of the most influential people in my life, David Weale would rank high up on the list.

Judging by the tone of the anti-Weale posts, I would not doubt that they are all the same person. I have no idea why this person feels so strongly on the issue. Perhaps he had a bad experience with Professor Weale, or maybe he just has too much time on his hands. Either way, his opinion is not shared by me.

Peter Rukavina's picture
Peter Rukavina on January 28, 2006 - 22:06 Permalink

Please note that the Journal-Pioneer editorial posted here earlier was not posted by staff from the Journal-Pioneer newspaper, but I’ve received permission from the managing editor to leave the text in place.

oliver's picture
oliver on January 29, 2006 - 02:16 Permalink

Notice how the most energetic threads in the blogosphere are the ones where you get to libel and/or champion third parties? I hope Peter won’t consider it too soon for me to invoke Godwin and point out that David Weale is not Adolf Hitler. I’ve never met either of them, but most people seem to think Hitler died a long time ago in that bunker in Germany, which places him pretty far from the scene of the alleged crime.

Alan's picture
Alan on January 29, 2006 - 02:18 Permalink

There’s a new low.

kyle's picture
kyle on January 29, 2006 - 23:37 Permalink

Do you not realize that this ‘70% deal’ damages the credibility of all professors at UPEI? It makes the school look like a joke. It’s quite disgusting that a professor who would preach academic integrity doesn’t follow his own instruction.

oliver's picture
oliver on January 29, 2006 - 23:57 Permalink

My last comment was wry humor, in case there are any doubts.

Kevin O'Brien's picture
Kevin O'Brien on January 30, 2006 - 16:25 Permalink

(I hope David doesn’t mind me doing this but I agree with what he says so much, and I know he doesn’t (at least, didn’t) go on line much)

In his own words:

“They just want to send out this message about how strict they are about standards, when, goddammit, I was the one who was fighting in that class for standards.”

I was saying to the students: ‘This is an act of grace and it’s a good thing in life to accept grace.’ It’s not a good thing to think that you have to earn everything, because that’s an illusion.”

“It’s often because of good luck, the family they were born into, the genes they were born with. So when you establish a society totally of merit and credit, it just suits the privileged. And it always works against the underprivileged.”

“Fair always depends on your perspective. Is it fair for students to do nothing in a class and get a credit? No, it is not fair. I’ll admit that. Now, is it fair for students who have paid $450 and who want to learn about the content of the course to be jammed into a classroom that is greatly compromising the learning situation? Is that fair to them?”

This stuff comes from (sorry if I’ve violated any copyright — someone will tell me). Livejournal, or at least the article, doesn’t seem to think any of this is a good thing, here’s what they say about David, “When asked whether what he did was wrong, he grew impatient, launching into a critique of “our so-called merit-based society,” adding it rewards the privileged.” In today’s its-ok-to-knife-someone-as-long-as-its-done-with-a-smile-world, “he grew impatient” is code for “I don’t like him” otherwise it would have been left out. Anyway, the critique he “launched into” is what produced those comments on optics, grace, luck and fairness. Would that he’d continue “launching”!

Anyway, David is right about optics. So few ever speak of grace, luck is as much about arrogance as it is about anything, and I know my old friend Chris Bullman would agree with David on fairness.

Sandra's picture
Sandra on February 1, 2006 - 16:58 Permalink

UPEI missed the boat. Profs cancel classes all the time or they have students teach their classes and nobody says nothing. Like the student said in the Guardian, theres only a handful of UPEI profs who can really teach but no one talks about that. Its just sad.

MIke's picture
MIke on February 2, 2006 - 16:07 Permalink

Obviously, not many here have had recent reference letters for graduate school written by Weale. For those who have, I wonder what they are worth?

Jocelyne's picture
Jocelyne on February 2, 2006 - 17:44 Permalink

I agree with the comment made by Dr. James Austin. I am also a former student of David Weale and thoroughly enjoyed his classes. He is the most influential teacher I have ever had. He made me think, not only about history, but about the world and myself.

I don’t have much of an opinion on the whole 70% issue. I think people are making it into something that is really of little importance in the real world. In the academic world it is obviously a big deal. I guess that’s why I don’t like academics.

Daniel's picture
Daniel on February 3, 2006 - 04:07 Permalink

What about the fact that one in five UPEI students (from this subsample)accepted Weale’s offer? Perhaps the University should be concerned about the fact that in this sample of its students, 20% were all-too-happy to buy credits. Perhaps a more rigorous screening process is in order?

Rob Paterson's picture
Rob Paterson on February 26, 2006 - 14:37 Permalink

I think that Peter raised the issue about class size being something that should remain on the table.

Can we talk about that for a bit?

What happens when you are lectured at by someone who cannot mark your papers and who may not know your name? Is this quality? Is this excellence?

Universities are on track to be factories. I worked at York a few years back. Many of the classes were 200-300. The prof never saw a paper and never could do more than lecture at the students. Every class had a text book and a set of harassed TA’s that were barely older and more experienced than the undergrads. As universities fight to get bums on seats — this is where they are going. Is this quality? Is this worth the money? Is any learning going on? Is this where UPEI is going?

Does it have to be that? Is being a factory going to be a competitive offering?

Now my age comes into the picture. When I was an undergrad — the largest class I had was 3. Each of us would read our papers to the prof out loud. We would then discuss them in a group with the prof. He would then set us a large question and send us out to the resources of the university to find our answers and to be ready next week to offer our best shot again. Now that was learning. That was excellence and that was quality — the objective was to teach us how to think and how to take charge of our own learning  — not to regurgitate a text book or the views of one professor.

In seeking enrollment above the student experience, universities risk offering a facade of learning. In Canada most undergrad offerings seem to me little more than high school with bigger classes

So can a university have a large enrollment and offer the kind of interactive engagement that we all need to learn? Yes they can — it is called online.

What will make the change? First, the Emperor’s clothes effect will kick in. There will come a time soon, when many 23 year olds with a 4 year BA and $40,000 of debt will realize that this commodity degree has no value in either the workplace or in life. Universities roll out fear stats saying that if you don’t have a degree you are done for. But who do you know is routinely getting their feet on a ladder that will take the somewhere with one of today’s sad degrees?

What would it be about what they have just been through that would make them as a group attractive to you as an employer? Have they been taught to think for themselves? Have they been taught to learn? Have they been taught anything that is current? Have they gone deep into anything?

In a world where more and more of us will not have jobs but have to create work — look at Peter or the SO boys etc — have you learned anything that will make you comfortable in an unstructured landscape?

How will having 30-40,000 of debt affect your choices and your life on graduation?

There is a small but growing group of educators who are working to create a much more interactive and valuable offer. Just as the airlines, retailers and the media are being undermined by a new offering that fits the real needs of the customer, so post secondary education needs to look out for the revolution to reach them as well.

A university that will be very successful in the future will make the student experience its most important issue of quality. This experience will not be limited to how nice the campus is but will include the learning experience and the reality of the value of the degree and the association with the university in life after graduation

So the fuss about David Weale has obscured the point. By focusing on David, it has missed the risk for UPEI. That a revolution is sweeping the world. This revolution is using the new technology to offer the consumer a much better deal. All the technology is in place today to offer the student a much more current, interactive and less expensive learning experience. An experience that takes the student out into the world. An experience that builds a network for the student with not only other students but with practitioners. All this for a fraction of the direct and indirect costs for the students.

The opportunity for UPEI, is that these revolutions always happen from the edges in. The last place to change will be Harvard — see the resignation of the President who had offering a better undergrad experience at the top of his agenda. UPEI is well placed to take a lead. It has not grown too big and has a culture of community that is real.

There is a lot at stake. The issue is a lot bigger than David.

Peter Rukavina's picture
Peter Rukavina on February 26, 2006 - 16:46 Permalink

My erstwhile experience on university life 20 years ago was a mixture of Rob’s and the modern day: Trent University was still very dedicated to “small group teaching” in those days, and many of my classes had only a dozen students in them, with tutorials that were even smaller. For my more obscure classes — Classical History, for example — I was able to establish a rich and interesting relationship with my professors.

At the same time, Psychology 101 filled the largest lecture hall on campus, and even the labs had 30 or 40 students in them.

My most remembered line from Trent was when I approached the lecturer in my Introduction to Computer Studies course and told him “this course is going to interfere with my education.” Of course we instantly became friends, he hatched a reading course for me, and we’re in touch to this day.

I’m convinced at this point that the only solution to the perversion that has become higher education is to simply chuck the institutions and go direct. I’m sure I could find a group of six people interested in working with David Weale once a week; we each throw money into a pot so David can eat, and we all come away better.