Thursday, March 24, 2011

Social Efficiency Part II

For simplicities sake, instead of a complex multi-source literature review or article on social efficiency, I will just tackle a book/article or two per post. At some point in life I will combine all the ideas into a coherent single unit of writing but for now...some article/book reviews, my editorial opinion on them.

Education and the Cult of Efficiency: A Study of the Social Forces That Have Shaped the Administration of the Public Schools. by Callahan, Raymond ...

"These two developments, and the vulnerability of the school administrator, contributed to the conditions in American society which explain the tremendous impact of Frederick Taylor and his system of scientific management, and the continuing influence of the business-industrial ideology upon American society and education after 1911. "

This kind of "proves" my connection of the efficiency movement to social efficiency in schools as mentioned briefly in my post on Social Efficiency Part 1.

"It was inevitable that these business values would greatly influence the public schools at the turn of the century, but the extent of this influence was furthered by certain aspects of the great reform crusade. This movement was primarily an attempt to cope with the problems which were a product of rapid industrialization: the consolidation of industry and the concentration of wealth; the ruthless exploitation of the country’s natural resources; the corruption and inefficiency in government; the tremendous growth of cities; the flood of immigrants who added to the complexity of the social and political problems in the urban areas; and finally, the fear among the middle class that America would react to these problems in an extreme or radical way (this reaction had of course been predicted by Karl Marx and had been realized, to an extent, in the growth of various forms of socialism in America)."

This again is social efficiency- with a new world of industry and corruption and many social ills the Progressive Era sought to fix, social efficiency was part of "the fix". The irony here is, the evil industrialists (according to some progressives) were the problem, and yet it seems they were also the solution, along with government control (but not supposedly inefficiency...if these progressives have any influence today, I don't see it in government since it is quite inefficient but that's another story...). The flood of immigrants was seen as a problem especially by the eugenicists (who were often proponents of Progressivism and Efficiency) who saw that they would cause racial impurity and social ills because they were inferior peoples intellectually, socially, etc and needed control. Some even proposed not just immigration sanctions but segregation and sterilization. Social efficiency would "fix" the immigrants by putting them in their place...whatever that might mean. Then quoting Marxism, the elite feared a middle class uprising. I then think, of you mold education just so, similar to the Prussian model, you can tweak the system just so, and the middle classes will be dumbed down into subservience.

"The business influence was exerted upon education in several ways: through newspapers, journals, and hooks; through speeches at educational meetings; and, more directly, through actions of school boards. It was exerted by laymen, by professional journalists, by businessmen or industrialists either individually or in groups (e.g., the National Association of Manufacturers), and finally by educators themselves. Whatever its source, the influence was exerted in the form of suggestions or demands that the schools be organized and operated in a more businesslike way and that more emphasis be placed upon a practical and immediately useful education. "

I am not exactly arguing against the influence of business in education. The deep down and dirty truth is, when people leave the safety net of schools, they go into the "real world" and end up working for businesses. Therefore businesses know what they want and we should as educators provide that. (However, I argue we provide more than just laborers, but thinkers, innovators, etc...) When does cause me hesitation as to the influence of business in education is the removal of local control, teacher freedom, bottom-up management that comes about through the implementation of business influences such as textbook and testing companies that now run our schools as if they know better. And when the author said "a practical and immediately useful education" he meant something more than that, as that sounds all fine and dandy. He and others of his movement wanted to train people just for an exact career and nothing outside of that. I argue this robs our people of free thought, will-power, freedom to do and think what they want. Knowledge is power!

"Year by year after 1900, the pressure for a more utilitarian education continued. By 1907, school superintendents were being praised by the President of the Commercial National Bank in Chicago for their contribution to America’s great material progress. As a guest speaker at their annual convention, he told them this progress was “a result of getting away, to an extent, from the mere scholastic education, and developing the practical side, making the school the place to learn how to manufacture."

Schools were not praised or encouraged to teach complex thought- the "scholastic education" as that was left to the elite private schools. Just like Prussia, our schools were to teach "how to manufacture", that is, how to do simple tasks for simple people, the common man's labors and nothing more.

"Along with these demands to make the academic program practical went an intensive campaign to introduce and extend vocational education in the public schools. Although the adoption of the German system with its early differentiation between academic students and vocational students was avoided, the drive for vocational education was quite successful."'s Prussia rearing her evil head. The author claims yes, we adopted the vocational education of Prussia but not her tracking system; however, I disagree as we had and still have GATE, special ed, etc. and encourage our children to take just what they need to graduate, or, extra course work for college prep.

"Some fourteen million immigrants had come to America between 1865 and 1900. After 1900, they came at a rate of about one million a year. The majority of these people remained in the eastern cities, where their children were entered — with increasing frequency because of the improvements in child labor laws and compulsory school attendance legislation — in the public schools. Coming predominantly from the poorest socioeconomic groups in southern and eastern Europe, these uprooted, non–English-speaking children from semiliterate families with diverse cultural backgrounds constituted an educational problem unparalleled in human history...Into this difficult and potentially explosive situation an American educator — not a businessman or muckraking journalist — threw an incendiary bomb in the form of an allegedly scientific study of retardation and elimination, published in 1909, Laggards in Our Schools. The author, Leonard Ayres, said, that “for every child who is making more than normally rapid progress there are from eight to ten children making abnormally slow progress.”he held the schools responsible, charging that their programs were “fitted not to the slow child or to the average child but to the unusually bright one.”

This is the immigration issue again, that these immigrants were "retarding" our schools and social efficiency would cure this, especially since these children had to attend school because of the compulsory school law. Ayres here says something surprising, that the schools were too advanced for these students of retarded status; this makes sense upon reflection because it promotes a common school for the common man, dumbing down education.

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