Postmodern Conservative

Slowly, Professor

I agree with this, uh, too much for my own good.

In their new book, The Slow Professor: Challenging the Culture of Speed in the Academy …Maggie Berg and Barbara Seeber apply the principles of the “slow” movement to academia. Proudly proclaiming themselves “slow professors,” the authors offer insights on how to manage teaching, research and collegiality in an era when more professors feel “beleaguered, managed, frantic, stressed and demoralized” as they juggle the increasingly complex expectations of students, the administration, colleagues – and themselves. “Distractedness and fragmentation characterize contemporary academic life,” they write.

I’m such a slow professor I can’t get in the door!  A perpetually visiting or adjunct-ing gypsy scholar.  Still, they’re right, right?  I recommend reading their piece with Papa Haydn in the background.  Or, sure, in the foreground.  

One of the more important things for a professor to do these days is to go outside and be seen reading. Office hours out on the quad, or around it peripatetic style. Especially this month, when a lot of students get a case of spring fever disastrously intersecting with their already being behind.  Set for them the example that the pleasures of the outdoor air can be combined with some of the tasks they have–and indeed, that for the most serious of their tasks, the slow reading of a great book, the doing of it outdoors might actually help.   

When it’s too cold this should be done in the most soulfully-quiet yet still-visible place in the library.  We gotta encourage those librarians–let them see that their place still rightfully belongs to the book, not to the screen.  Another good practice is walking around the school’s track with a Loeb in hand, preferably while the football team is practicing and the coaches are screamin’ their heads off.  Sure, you’ll probably get 50% less reading done, but you’ll burn some calories and maybe put the idea into some puzzled student’s brain that college has something to do with thinking.  Walk all over the place like this.  And if you fall into a hole in the ground like Thales did, that is what health insurance is for, and it’ll give your students a funny story to share.

I suppose I could compose an SLO (“Student Learning Outcome”) that would cover all of that, but doing so would keep me from good reading, good conversation, and all the other good things about academic life that Berg and Seeger remind us to fight for.  There’s a time for rapid-fire talk and hyper-connected multi-tasking, but it sure shouldn’t characterize most of the time of those charged with cultivating the life of the mind.


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