- The Slow Professor: Challenging the Culture of Speed in the Academy by Maggie Berg and Barbara K. Seeber
"We are Slow Professors," announce the co-authors of this book (ix). "We believe that adopting the principles of Slow into our professional practice is an effective way to alleviate work stress, preserve humanistic education, and resist the corporate university" (ix). "Corporatization," they continue, "has compromised academic life and sped up the clock" (x). The Slow Professor is a practical book aimed at convincing us to slow down all aspects of our academic lives as both an act of resistance to the corporatization of higher education as well as an endeavor to bring more pleasure and happiness into our academic lives.
The co-authors of this manifesto, two Canadian professors of English, give a heartfelt defense for slowing down academic life. While in the hands of other authors, this project might have come off as a shameless attempt to get academic attention by defending a controversial thesis ("Professors need to slow down!") and fashionable topic (there is a "slow" book out now for just about everything including most recently, philosophy [Michelle Boulous Walker, Slow Philosophy: Reading Against the Institution (Bloomsbury, 2017)]), Maggie Berg of Queen's University and Barbara K. Seeber of Brock University manage to avoid this primarily because of the sincerity of their commitment to "slowness."
Telephone conversations about coping with life in the corporate academy between Berg and Seeber led them to envision writing, in part, "a self-help book for academics" that would be "structured for reader ease" (13). Drawing on a wide range of sources advocating slowness such as the "Slow Food movement" (34) with its "focus on local artisans" (51) to "defend the … pleasures of food under threat from standardization and fast food" (Geoff Andrews, The Slow Food Story: Politics and Pleasure [Montreal and Kingston: McGill-Queen's University Press, 2008], 17–18), and Carl Honoré's In Praise of Slow: How a Worldwide Movement Is Challenging the Cult of Speed (Toronto: Vintage, 2004), Berg and Seeber make a compelling case for slowing down the increasing speed of academic life.
But for those among us who are not and will never become "slow" professors, this book will be a bit difficult to digest, especially the first chapter. Entitled, "Time Management and Timelessness," it surveys a number of ways to save time in pursuance of our academic life only to throw them out the window because of their similarity to the aims of the corporate university. As someone who has utilized a number of these methods of increasing productivity and efficiency, as well as others not only as a professional academic but also as a student from high school through graduate school, it is hard to agree with their suggestion that we should do [End Page 377] away with them—and adopt instead "a counterculture, a Slow culture that values balance and that dares to be skeptical of the professions of productivity" (21).
Here's an example: Donald E. Hall has argued that we need to "set … realistic daily and weekly goals," and suggests that we need to save Saturday's for research and twelve hours on Sunday for grading and class preparation (20). Hall's suggestions are provided as a way of increasing our research productivity even if we have high teaching loads like 4/4 or above. While I'm not a big proponent of Sunday preparation and grading, I don't see anything wrong with doing reading, writing, and research on the weekends, especially if this is something one enjoys doing. Also, setting not only "realistic daily and weekly goals," but also monthly and yearly goals seems to me to be a good healthy habit. For me, the habit of goal setting did not come from reading one of Donald E. Hall's articles on how to make oneself a more productive academic, rather it came out of educational practices that started in secondary school.
Teachers in grade school and...