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The Adoption Of Business Organization By Schools
In 1903, The Atlantic Monthly called for adoption of business organization by schools and William C. Bagley identified the ideal teacher as one who would rigidly "hew to the line." Bagleys6 ideal school was a place strictly reduced to rigid routine; he repeatedly stressed in his writing a need for "unquestioned obedience."
Before 1900, school boards were large, clumsy organizations, with a seat available to represent every interest (they often had thirty to fifty members). A great transformation was engineered in the first decade of the twentieth century, however, and after 1910 they were dominated by businessmen, lawyers, real estate men, and politicians. Business pressure extended from the kindergarten rung of the new school ladder all the way into the German-inspired teacher training schools. The Atlantic Monthly approved what it had earlier asked for, saying in 1910, "Our universities are beginning to run as business colleges."
Successful industrial leaders were featured regularly in the press, holding forth on their success but seldom attributing it to book learning or scholarship. Carnegie, self-educated in libraries, appears in his writings and public appearances as the leading school critic of the day; echoing Carnegie, the governor of Michigan welcomed an NEA convention to Detroit with his injunction: "The demand of the age is for practical education." The State Superintendent of Public Instruction in Michigan followed the governor:
The character of our education must change with the oncoming of the years of this highly practical age. We have educated the mind to think and trained the vocal organs to express the thought, and we have forgotten the fact that in four times out of five the practical man expresses his thought by the hand rather than by mere words.
Something was cooking. The message was clear: academic education had become a strange kind of national emergency, just as had been prophesied by the Department of Educations Circular of Information in 1871 and 1872. Twenty years later Francis Parker praised the elite Committee of Ten under Harvard president Charles Eliot for rejecting "tracking," the practice of school class assignment based upon future social destination. The committee had come down squarely for common schools, an ideal that Parker said was "worth all the pains necessary to produce the report. The conclusion is that there should be no such thing as class education." Parker had noticed the start of an attempt to provide common people with only partial education. He was relieved it had been turned back. Or so he thought.
The pronouncements of the Committee of Ten turned out to be the last gasp of the common school notion apart from Fourth of July rhetoric. The common school was being buried by the determination of new tycoon-class businessmen to see the demise of an older democratic-republican order and its dangerous libertarian ideals. If "educators," as they were self-consciously beginning to refer to themselves, had any misunderstanding of what was expected by 1910, NEA meetings of that year were specifically designed to clear them up. Attendees were told the business community had judged their work to date to be "theoretical, visionary, and impractical":
All over the country our courses are being attacked and the demand for revision is along the line of fitting mathematical teaching to the needs of the masses.
In 1909, Leonard Ayres charged in Laggards in Our Schools that although these institutions were filled with "retarded children," school programs were, alas, "fitted...to the unusually bright one." Ayres invented means for measuring the efficiency of school systems by computing the dropout/holdover ratea game still in evidence today. This was begging the question with a vengeance but no challenge to this assessment was ever raised.
Taylors system of management efficiency was being formally taught at Harvard and Dartmouth by 1910. In the next year, 219 articles on the subject appeared in magazines, hundreds more followed: by 1917 a bibliography of 550 school management-science references was available from a Boston publisher. As the steel core of school reform, scientific management enjoyed national recognition. It was the main topic at the 1913 convention of the Department of Superintendence. Paul Hanus, professor of education at Harvard, launched a series of books for the World Book Company under the title School Efficiency Series, and famous muckraker J.M. Rice published his own Scientific Management in Education in 1913, showing local "ward" schooling an arena of low-lives and grifters.
Frederick Taylors influence was not limited to America; it soon circled the globe. Principles of Scientific Management spread the efficiency mania over Europe, Japan, and China. A letter to the editor of The Nation in 1911 gives the flavor of what was happening:
I am tired of scientific management, so-called. I have heard of it from scientific managers, from university presidents, from casual acquaintances in railway trains; I have read of it in the daily papers, the weekly paper, the ten-cent magazine, and in the Outlook. I have only missed its treatment by Theodore Roosevelt; but that is probably because I cannot keep up with his writings. For 15 years I have been a subscriber to a magazine dealing with engineering matters, feeling it incumbent on me to keep in touch but the touch has become a pressure, the pressure a crushing strain, until the mass of articles on shop practice and scientific management threatened to crush all thought out of my brain, and I stopped my subscription.
In an article from Izvestia dated April 1918, Lenin urged the system upon Russians.
6His jargon-enriched Classroom Management (1907) was reprinted thirty times in the next 20 years asa teacher training text. Bagleys metaphors drawn from big business can fairly be said to have controlled the pedagogical imagination for the entire twentieth century.
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