Quick re-cap...what is social efficiency and what does it have to do with schools? To quote author Ann Gibson Winfield, "Reflecting the general societal trend, social efficiency educators were "imbued with the power of science" and believe that the application of business and industrial standard would eliminate waste in education." She goes on to say, " The conduits comprising the interface between eugenic ideology and education was formed through a combination of historical, political, socially Progressive and demographic influences in play during the first decades of the 20th century".
Social Efficiency and the New Nationalism by Joel H. Spring (an author I've found to be quite knowledgeable and unbiased) wrote...
"The common ideological bed shared by the New Nationalists and the
social efficiency educators was made up of an acceptance of a collective
society and a belief that an individual should be devoted to a specialized task
in society. The social efficiency stream in early twentieth-century American
education has recently been pointed out by Edward Krug in The Shaping
of the American High School and in Walter Drost's biography of social
efficiency educator David Snedden. Krug's thesis is that social efficiency
was a combination of education for social service and social control. The
social service aspect of social efficiency education involved the same
type of attack upon rugged individualism that Bowers found as one of
the striking characteristics ofthe social reconstructionists. It was an education
directed at training the individual for a life devoted to the good
of the collective whole"
Again the social efficiency notion of training someone for a specific task or career and nothing more. For example, a person trained to be a carpenter would only know history of carpentry (no need to know of world wars, the constitution, etc), carpentry-based math, etc. This in my eyes does not make a whole person and robs man of the freedom of knowledge. Social efficiency gets as creepy as can be here, as it begins to sound like Mao-era China when Spring says, " social efficiency was a combination of education for social service and social control". When I read that education should be about social control, I think some blood shoots from out my eyes. Education should FREE man, knowledge is power, enlightenment, freedom. If education is control then it is indoctrination as well and I stand against that. This idea goes perhaps even beyond the Prussian idea that education should teach us to bow down to the king. And yet it gets worse...a socialist mantra indeed, that education should train us to devote our lives to the collective whole. Last time I checked, America was founded by the founding fathers that promoted individualism and freedom, not kowtowing to the government for the good of the collective whole.
"The social efficiency educator at the University of
Wisconsin, Micheal V. O'Shea, told teachers in a 1909 textbook entitled
Social Development and Education, "Intense individualistic feelings and
actions must be brought under control, and cooperation must largely
take the place of original tendencies to opposition and aggression."
William C. Bagley went further than this in 1904 when he wrote in his
The Educative Process that a socially efficient man was one who was
willing to "sacrifice his own pleasure . .. when its gratification will not
directly or indirectly lead to social advancement." sociologist,
Edward A. Ross. Ross wrote his book Social Control while at Stanford
during the eighteen-nineties. Insisting
that communities held together by close face-to-face relationships were
rapidly becoming things of the past, he advocated new means by which
society could maintain social order. "Success in social organization," Ross
wrote, "implies that each man, whether watched or unwatched, sticks to his
appointed work, and interferes with no one else in his work." Ross hailed
education as a means of achieving successful social organization. Teachers
could become "an economical system of police." Education for social control
meant training student to fit into a particular slot in the social
Here Spring identifies yet again my point of social efficiency being for social control and to teach people just what they need to know, nothing more. The “powers that be” of this era saw, as I’ve mentioned, the family and community unit breaking down and so through social control in the schools, social order could be maintained and everyone would know their proper place in the collective whole.
“ Social specialization was to be achieved through a differentiated curriculum. Courses and course material were to be selected on the basis of the social destination of
the student. Collective harmony was to be achieved through social education.
Within the school the child was to be divested of all selfish individual
interests. Group play and group work were to prepare the individual for
a collective society”
Differentiated curriculum is a buzz word in current education, but if this is its origins, I am weary. This reiterates that schools are to train people for their pre-determined roles, nothing more. And through this brainwashing…I mean “education”, we would reach a utopia of “collective harmony” and we would no longer have individualism or selfish thought. Even our play-time was to be infiltrated and turned into a socialist exercise. Prussia monitored children’s play by creating government run children’s clubs such as judendeutchland (no clue on the spelling) or “Young Germans”.
“Social efficiency education and the New Nationalism were therefore wedded
to the goals of a highly organized society in which efficiency was to be
maintained through social specialization and unselfish devotion to common
social causes. The New Nationalism as a progressive political movement did
not die with Roosevelt's defeat in 1912. As Eric Goldman has pointed out,
New Nationalist thinking became a part of Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal”
Here it is again- our pre-determined roles, promoted/mandated through our education, will make our society more efficient (easier to control). The “devotion to social causes” sounds innocuous but their social causes here are anything but, as they are all about control and a push for a utopian socialistic mantra of collectivism. For those who claim the New Deal was all about socialism, this to me aligns to that claim, as Spring suggests below;
If this is true, then the question that has to be answered is: Were the social
reconstructionists a new breed of progressive educator or were they in
the tradition of social efficiency education? Though it is true that early social
efficiency educators did not demand a completely planned society in the
manner of the social reconstructionists, it is not difficult to imagine that a
plea for social specialization and collective harmony would move in this
direction under the pressure of a depression. T his question must be answered
before we can come to a clear understanding of what progressive education
was all about.”