Professors, Now is the Time to Open Our Hearts
Life and the Cult of Busyness
What is the Purpose of this Journey We Call Life?
Tenured Professor, Publishing Books and Journal Articles, Bringing Loads of Money to the University, But Feels Lost, Trapped, Unhappy, Miserable, and Dejected, but Why?
My dear fellow-academics: Life in the Slow Lane is the Route to Happiness, Contentment, Inner Peace, Meaningful Life and indeed, more Productivity, Efficiency, more Publications and far better Students’ Reviews! I hope you are listening!
Can this professor in -The Fast Lane- be of any use to himself,
let alone to his students, family, friends or community?
A few of the lessons from my academic journey. I learned them the hard way. Now you listen to me and save yourself the hardship.
‘Knowing how to put family, social and creative life back at the very heart of the knowledge economy is perhaps the only way to save a university from the discomfort that it has imposed on itself in a desire to imitate private enterprise.’
‘Now it's all about Productivity, Pay, Performance and Profit- the four Ps- which is fuelled by the three Fs: Fear, Frustration and Failure. Just sometimes I wish that in the midst of these Ps (& Fs), there was some time left for another set of four Fs: Families, Friends, Festivals and Fun.’
I paid a very heavy price when I joined the ‘Rat-race’ of university life. I even paid a heavier price when I challenged the universities and spoke truth to power. I told them that the system is failing me, my health and emotions, feelings and thoughts, my being a teacher, on a vocation to inspire the next generation.
I told them that I had chosen teaching as my vocation, not as a path to a business life and values. The time was at the height of Thatcherism and the introduction of neoliberalism at places of higher education, the poisonous ideologies devoid of any human and humane values. The non academic ‘big wiggs’ that had been brought in from outside to run the universities, had no time for the values that I was proposing and suggesting. The race was on to get rid of values-led, progressive academics, in their eyes, the so-called troublemakers. One by one were offered early retirement packages to set them free to go home, sit and dream about what could have been.
By the late 1990s I was feeling mentally and physically exhausted and dejected. I had concluded that I was only a small drop in the ocean of higher education, unable to change universities from inside. The best was to leave, freeing myself from the chain of toeing the line, leave and campaign to bring about the necessary changes from outside, where I could write and speak my mind freely without fear or favour.
This is what I did and after the initial few years of pain and agony, I found the light at the end of the tunnel, and I have never been happier since. I also firmly believe that as a result, I have never been more academically productive, more engaged, more useful/helpful and relevant.
Although, I do not take the following as a source of joy or pleasure, but given what has happened to education, universities and the perception of the ‘Mad Professors’ I wonder who has the last laugh now, me or them!!
Now, reverting back to ‘The Slow Professor’
‘If there is one sector of society that should be cultivating deep thought in itself and others, it is academia. Yet the corporatisation of the contemporary university has sped up the clock, demanding increased speed and efficiency from faculty regardless of the consequences for education and scholarship.
In The Slow Professor, Maggie Berg and Barbara K. Seeber discuss how adopting the principles of the Slow movement in academic life can counter this erosion of humanistic education. Focusing on the individual faculty member and his or her own professional practice, Berg and Seeber present both an analysis of the culture of speed in the academy and ways of alleviating stress while improving teaching, research, and collegiality. The Slow Professor will be a must-read for anyone in academia concerned about the frantic pace of contemporary university life.’
A Selection of Comments about The Mad Professor
'It is time to do less and better, to transmit to students something like power, even a critical joy. Reinstall camaraderie, mutual aid, real encounters, free exchanges, break isolation. It is true that this also implies accepting a form of vulnerability of one’s word, to not armour oneself against the opinions of others, not to be afraid of being caught in the wrong.
‘This is true for universities, but also for all areas of knowledge, creativity and community work. To be slow teachers, slow journalists, slow nurses, is not to be stopped - it is simply to find the luxury of playing with one’s ideas and energy so that values such as creativity, invention and solicitude, are never subjected to speculative one-upmanship.’- Julien Lefort-Favreau, Queen's University, Canada
‘This book delved into many important issues facing academics today... Increasing pressures on faculty to take on administrative and staff tasks, corporatization of academia and emphasis on efficiency and quantifiable productivity, increases in workplace loneliness and ghost town hallways of faculty office buildings, etc. The bottom line is "no time to think", reflect, read, or write in the spirit of true scholars engaged in the pursuit of deeper understanding (vs. knowledge, which the authors argue is more quantifiable but not the ultimate goal). It was refreshing to know that others recognize and seek to resist these growing influences, and inspiring to hear about the potential inherent in applying the Slow Movement to academic life. A very thoughtful book and a recommended read!’-
‘Now that I am retired from full-time teaching, I can revel in the time to think and write. I feel whole and happy. I teach a few chosen classes online. This book makes me recall all of the frustration and anguish of teaching full time. I did not have time to think. I was besieged by administrative duties. It is a shame that I had to retire in order to enjoy my vocation. Something must change.’-
‘I've been teaching for 20 years at an urban university and have witnessed corporatization first hand. It certainly harms students, weakens the teaching profession, and attempts to eliminate the culture of shared governance. This book is a must-read for professors and, more importantly, for students who want a good education.’-
‘I am a professor in the engineering field. More specifically in Chemical Engineering in a third-world country. I liked the book a lot because it is a warning of what is happening in our faculties regarding Taylor-like performance measurements for us professors (i.e., how many papers are we publishing yearly?, how many courses are we lecturing each year? etc.) Universities have become so corporate-like that we no longer feel like scholars. That's the bottom line of the book. The best thing that I can say is that Maggie and Barbara provide very sound and applicable advice to counter the stress-full environment starting to pervade our academic jobs…’- The above excerpts are a selection of comments about the book on Amazon.
See more comments and buy the book HERE
‘The Slow Professor’: A Review
…‘On this point, it seems that everyone must be impacted. It’s obvious that everyone’s concentration time is strongly affected by increasingly frequent external demands.
Without pleading for the abolition of Facebook or texting, Berg and Seeber nevertheless believe we must learn to cut ourselves off from the world again, even if only for a few hours, in order to be able to read and write correctly. Transforming knowledge and letting oneself be transformed by the knowledge of others requires slowness, almost an asceticism.
The principle of the slow professor also implies a way of prioritizing intellectual and material life differently, of finding a way to put everyday invasions in their place.
This guilt of never working hard enough is invading all spheres of immaterial labour. I wrote an article in the journal Nouveau Projet on this issue, and more particularly on the “academic humour” that derides this obsession with work and the resulting alienation.
Needless to say, the time management style now demanded by universities is contrary to that of parenting, particularly motherhood, or any other form of investment in the care of relatives (this is certainly a way to go if we want to understand systemic gender inequalities in universities).- Continue to read
The Beauty, Wisdom and the Timeliness of Slowness: A pick from our archive
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