Book Review by James Hartley
Berg, M. & Seeber, B. K. (2016) The Slow Professor: Changing the Culture of Speed in the Academy, Toronto: University of Toronto Press.
In the USA and Canada there is a movement to reject ‘Fast Food’ in favour of something more nutritious – apparently called ‘Slow Food’. The title of this book is built on this analogy. The authors, two Canadian Professors of English, reject the language and the common currency of commercially framed universities in favour of something more substantive.
The Slow Professor has 4 chapters encased in an Introduction and Conclusion. The first chapter reviews the literature on academic time management. The authors prefer a slow-baked meal to the fast-food currently on offer – where overworked academics are taught extraordinary techniques to get on and publish their research (which often amounts to getting others – especially postgrads – to do your work for you). Readers are persuaded to enjoy their teaching and research – rather than to delegate it.
The authors provide many useful tips. Research with others often emerges from good conversations – working together can be more pleasurable than working alone – difficulties will be withstood and issues better discussed together – partners will trust each other – research topics will emerge rather than being imposed by funding models. In short, ‘Slow professors act with purpose, cultivating emotional and intellectual resilience to the effects of corporatization in higher education’.
All of this seems a bit odd or nostalgic in today’s climate – but what’s the harm in that? This text reminds us of what universities are (were?) for and where, gadarene-like, we are going.
James Hartley is Emeritus Professor of Psychology at Keele University. He is the author of ‘Designing Instructional Text’ (3rd ed. 1994, Kogan Page) and ‘Academic Writing and Publishing’ (Routledge, 2008).