Monday, April 3, 2017

They Called You Slow, Part II

There’s a movement, apparently, to slow down the academy – or the academe. I assume this is at the university level.

Or at least I think there is a movement. But it’s so self-absorbed in academic jargon, at least in this example, it’s kinda hard to tell what this “slow professor” movement means.

Here’s an example.

"We believe,” write Barbara Seeber and Maggie Berg, professors of English from two universities in Canada, “that adopting the principles of slow into the professional practice of academia is an effective way to alleviate time poverty, preserve humanistic education, and resist the destructive effects of the corporate university.”

May I raise a few questions, professors?

What are the principles of slow?

What, exactly, is “time poverty”?

What is humanistic education?

The destructive effects of the corporate university, I get. At least I think I do. Maybe you explain all this in the book you’re selling. I have to confess, I probably will not read it.

The writers here assume the readers of this short essay know the answers to these questions.

I do not.

Then again, I probably represent the “corporate university” to these folks.

I’m an online adjunct instructor who teaches one to two sections of basic English each semester. I do so with a pre-set curriculum, one that recently changes and is highly frustrating to students and instructors. While I do have a masters’ degree in English, it’s with an emphasis on technical writing. I do not hold a teaching certificate. I do not teach in a traditional classroom. I do now know the traditions of the academy – let alone the academe. My full-time job is as a technical writer. At a nuclear waste dump. So that’s several strikes against me.

So, this essay – these thoughts – are probably not meant for me, upstart that I am.

But while we’re talking about the slow movement, time poverty, and humanistic education, could we also inject a little clarity? Or is clarity not part of the academe? (In reading this, I assume it is not.)

Given the tremendous amount of debt modern students are going into in order to earn a college degree these days, you’d think the academy would want to look at ways to speed up the process. To teach more each semester. Yet I feel the pain of those who resist – because I see in the classes I teach the wandering souls who leave with academic writing still as mysterious a subject as it was when they entered.

Maybe we shouldn’t be teaching academic writing. 

The course used to be fun to teach – fun in part because we had a variety of writing styles for them to sample – a research piece. A personality profile. A personal essay. And so on. In the course now, we slow down that research piece – stretching it out over three quarters of the semester. The students, in general, hate it. So do I, as the instructor. I have had one student thusfar leave the course saying she had fun writing. Used to be a lot more who said that. And because they had fun, they’d probably try writing again. Because it’s become a chore now, they probably won’t. And this class is supposed to be for the novice writer. Let those who want to delve more deeply take additional writing courses where they’re challenged.

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