Going Slow

Slow Down .......You Clown!!

Photo by Luc B | CC

If you are a faculty member at an institution of higher education and have spent too much time in meetings or writing reports related to recruitment, retention, enrollment, accreditation, and the like, then you should find the time to read The Slow Professor: Challenging the Culture of Speed in the Academy by M. Berg and B.K. Seeber. Michael M. Grant, who blogs at http://viral-notebook.com/, told me about the book.

The book is not long, just 90 pages.  It did, however, take me longer than expected to read, as I often had to stop and reflect on the number of personal experiences I have had (or friends have had) corresponding to the authors’ various observations. The book includes a preface, an introduction, four chapters, a conclusion, and acknowledgements and works cited sections.  The Preface includes the Slow Professor Manifesto, which begins:

“We are Slow Professors.  We believe that adopting the principles of Slow into our professional practice is an effective way to alleviate work stress, pressure, humanistic education, and resist the corporate university”(p. ix).

it goes on to include:

“In the corporate university, power is transferred from faculty to managers, economic justifications dominate, and the familiar ‘bottom line’ eclipses pedagogical and intellectual concerns. Slow Professors advocate deliberation over acceleration.  We need time to think, and so do our students.  Time for reflection and open-ended inquiry is not a luxury but is crucial to what we do” (p. x).

As I read the book, I found myself wanting to quote so much of that I found it ridiculous. They link the familiar three foci of professor-life (teaching, research, and service) to issues stemming from the corporate university, and they discuss how Slow can benefit them. They do not offer much in the book on the topic of online teaching.  I teach in a 100% online graduate program.  The book includes some information on technology and teaching online, but this is by no means a major part of the book.  I will continue to think about how the ideas shared in the book might be amplified or ameliorated by teaching online.

If reading the book does nothing else, it will help you know that you and your institution are not anomalies, if you share the same experiences described in the book.  Working in academe can sometimes be isolating, and the validation of knowing you are not alone can be comforting. I identified with many of the observations included in this book, but I am unsure of how to act to resist the corporate university. The reality is that deadlines are given, reports are assigned, and managers control raises (however infrequent or small) and other perks of the profession (travel and professional development funds). I believe it will be hard for any one faculty member to make much of a difference working alone to resist the corporate university without being branded as an uncooperative crank who does not work well with others.  However, recommending this book to others and discussing its many cogent points may produce meaningful changes within an academic unit.

I have many opinions and comments regarding the idea of the corporate university, which I may share in a future post.  I need some more time to organize them.