The Slow Professor: Challenging the Culture of Speed in the Academy Maggie Berg and Barbara K. Seeber (University of Toronto Press, 2016)
Reviewed by Jackie Brady
Just a few weeks ago, as the Fall Semester at the community college where I work was wrapping up, I ran into an especially exhausted seeming colleague in the copy room. When I asked her how she was doing, she explained, between coughing spasms, that she had pneumonia. "Walking pneumonia?" I inquired, concerned that she was at work in spite of her diagnosis and obvious discomfort. "No," she replied, "regular pneumonia. I really should be at home in bed, but I was afraid of getting too far behind on everything at this point in the semester." I nodded my understanding. What teacher does not know the pressure to get work done even when it means ignoring our own wellbeing? To this colleague and all "beleaguered, managed, frantic, stressed, and demoralized professor[s] who [are] the product of the corporatization of higher education" (ix) (that covers most of us), Maggie Berg and Barbara K. Seeber offer a form of a remedy in their little book, The Slow Professor: Challenging the Culture of Speed in the Academy.
Berg and Seeber draw their framework and inspiration from the Slow Food Movement begun in Italy in 1986. This movement, as many Radical Teacher readers will know, opposes big agribusiness, industrialized food production, and globalization by promoting local products, sustainable methods, and small businesses with fair labor practices. Like the Slow Food Movement, the Slow Professor Movement suggested by the authors, takes aim at the central capitalist concepts that faster and more output are better and that workplaces should operate with machinelike efficiency. School administrators began to adopt the principle of workplace efficiency already back in the Progressive Era. And by now, over one hundred years later, it has taken firm hold in the neoliberal corporate university. According to the authors, it has created a debilitating "culture of speed," made even worse by "the rise in contractual positions, expanding class sizes, increased use of technologies, downloading of clerical tasks onto faculty, and the shift to managerialism"(3). Such systemic changes to academic culture conspire to, in the authors' word, "balloon" our workloads, making faculty busier and busier, ever more responsible to their students, departments, and above all administrators. It is no surprise then that...