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On the night of June 9, 1834, a group of prominent men "chiefly engaged in commerce" gathered privately in a Boston drawing room to discuss a scheme of universal schooling. Secretary of this meeting was William Ellery Channing, Horace Manns own minister as well as an international figure and the leading Unitarian of his day. The location of the meeting house is not entered in the minutes nor are the names of the assemblys participants apart from Channing. Even though the literacy rate in Massachusetts was 98 percent, and in neighboring Connecticut, 99.8 percent, the assembled businessmen agreed the present system of schooling allowed too much to depend upon chance. It encouraged more entrepreneurial exuberance than the social system could bear.
The minutes of this meeting are Appleton Papers collection, Massachusetts Historical Society
Frederick W. Taylor
The first man on record to perceive how much additional production could be extracted from close regulation of labor was Frederick Winslow Taylor, son of a wealthy Philadelphia lawyer. "What I demand of the worker," Taylor said, "is not to produce any longer by his own initiative, but to execute punctiliously the orders given down to their minutest details."
The Taylors, a prominent Quaker family from Germantown, Pennsylvania, had taken Freddy to Europe for three years from 1869 to 1872, where he was attending an aristocratic German academy when von Moltkes Prussian blitzkrieg culminated in the French disaster at Sedan and a German Empire was finally proclaimed, ending a thousand years of disunion. Prussian schooling was the widely credited forge which made those miracles possible. The jubilation which spread through Germany underlined a presumably fatal difference between political systems which disciplined with ruthless efficiency, like Prussias socialist paradise, and those devoted to whimsy and luxury, like Frances. The lesson wasnt lost on little Fred.
Near the conclusion of his Principles of Scientific Management 1 (1911), published thirty-nine years later, Taylor summarized the new managerial discipline as follows:
- A regimen of science, not rule of thumb.
- An emphasis on harmony, not the discord of competition.
- An insistence on cooperation, not individualism.
- A fixation on maximum output.
- The development of each man to his greatest productivity.
Taylors biographers, Wrege and Greenwood, wrote:
He left us a great legacy. Frederick Taylor advanced a total system of management, one which he built from pieces taken from numerous others whom he rarely would credit.... His genius lies in being a missionary.
After Taylors death in 1915, the Frederick W. Taylor Cooperators were formed to project his Scientific Management movement into the future. Frank Copley called Taylor "a man whose heart was aflame with missionary zeal." Much about this Quaker-turned-Unitarian, who married into an Arbella-descended Puritan family before finally becoming an Episcopalian, bears decisively on the shape schooling took in this country. Wrege and Greenwood describe him as: "often arrogant, somewhat caustic, and inflexible in how his system should be implemented....Taylor was cerebral; like a machine he was polished and he was also intellectual....Taylors brilliant reasoning was marred when he attempted to articulate it, for his delivery was often demeaning, even derogatory at times."
Frank Gilbreths2 Motion Study says:
It is the never ceasing marvel concerning this man that age cannot wither nor custom stale his work. After many a weary days study the investigator awakes from a dream of greatness to find he has only worked out a new proof for a problem Taylor has already solved. Time study, the instruction card, functional foremanship, the differential rate piece method of compensation, and numerous other scientifically derived methods of decreasing costs and increasing output and wagesthese are by no means his only contributions to standardizing the trades.
To fully grasp the effect of Taylors industrial evangelism on American national schooling, you need to listen to him play teacher in his own words to Schmidt at Bethlehem Steel in the 1890s:
Now Schmidt, you are a first-class pig-iron handler and know your business well. You have been handling at a rate of twelve and a half tons per day. I have given considerable study to handling pig-iron, and feel you could handle forty-seven tons of pig-iron per day if you really tried instead of twelve and a half tons.
Skeptical but willing, Schmidt started to work, and all day long, and at regular intervals, was told by the men who stood over him with a watch, "now pick up a pig and walk. Now sit down and rest. Now walkrest," etc. He worked when he was told to work, and rested when he was told to rest, and at half past five in the afternoon had his forty-seven tons loaded on the car.
The incident described above is, incidentally, a fabrication. There was no Schmidt except in Taylors mind, just as there was no close observation of Prussian schools by Mann. Below, he testifies before Congress in 1912:
There is a right way of forcing the shovel into materials and many wrong ways. Now, the way to shovel refractory stuff is to press the forearm hard against the upper part of the right leg just below the thigh, like this, take the end of the shovel in your right hand and when you push the shovel into the pile, instead of using the muscular effort of the arms, which is tiresome, throw the weight of your body on the shovel like this; that pushes your shovel in the pile with hardly any exertion and without tiring the arms in the least.
Harlow Person called Taylors approach to the simplest tasks of working life "a meaningful and fundamental break with the past." Scientific management, or Taylorism, had four characteristics designed to make the worker "an interchangeable part of an interchangeable machine making interchangeable parts."
Since each quickly found its analogue in scientific schooling, let me show them to you:3 1) A mechanically controlled work pace; 2) The repetition of simple motions; 3) Tools and technique selected for the worker; 4) Only superficial attention is asked from the worker, just enough to keep up with the moving line. The connection of all to school procedure is apparent.
"In the past," Taylor wrote, "Man has been first. In the future the system must be first." It was not sufficient to have physical movements standardized; the standardized worker "must be happy in his work," too, therefore his thought processes also must be standardized.4 Scientific management was applied wholesale in American industry in the decade after 1910. It spread quickly to schools.
In the preface to the classic study on the effects of scientific management on schooling in America, Education and the Cult of Efficiency,5 Raymond Callahan explains that when he set out to write, his intent was to explore the origin and development of business values in educational administration, an occurrence he tracks to about 1900. Callahan wanted to know why school administrators had adopted business practices and management parameters of assessment when "Education is not a business. The school is not a factory."
Could the inappropriate procedure be explained simply by a familiar process in which ideas and values flow from high-status groups to those of lesser distinction? As Callahan put it, "It does not take profound knowledge of American education to know that educators are, and have been, a relatively low-status, low-power group." But the degree of intellectual domination shocked him:
What was unexpected was the extent, not only of the power of business-industrial groups, but of the strength of the business ideology...and the extreme weakness and vulnerability of school administrators. I had expected more professional autonomy and I was completely unprepared for the extent and degree of capitulation by administrators to whatever demands were made upon them. I was surprised and then dismayed to learn how many decisions they made or were forced to make, not on educational grounds, but as a means of appeasing their critics in order to maintain their positions in the school. [emphasis added]
1The actual term "scientific management" was created by famous lawyer Louis Brandeis in 1910 for the Interstate Commerce Commission rate hearings. Brandeis understood thoroughly how a clever phrase could control public imagination.
2Gilbreth, the man who made the term "industrial engineering" familiar to the public, was a devotee ofTaylorism. His daughter wrote a best seller about the Gilbreth home, Cheaper By The Dozen, in which her fathers penchant for refining work processes is recalled. Behind his back, Taylor ran Gilbreth down as a "fakir."
3List adapted from Melvin Kranzberg and Joseph Gies, By the Sweat of Thy Brow.
4Taylor was no garden-variety fanatic. He won the national doubles tennis title in 1881with a racket of his own design, and pioneered slip-on shoes (to save time, of course). Being happy in your work was the demand of Bellamy and other leading socialist thinkers, otherwise you would have to be "adjusted" (hence the expression "well- adjusted"). Taylor concurred.
5Callahans analysis why schoolmen are always vulnerable is somewhat innocent and ivory tower, and his recommendation for reformto effectively protect their revenue stream from criticism on the part of the publicis simply tragic; but his gathering of data is matchless and his judgment throughout in small matters and large is consistently illuminating.
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