So here we are, the fifth lecture of our ED 632 class–in three parts: with an introduction, conclusion, and question.
Back in the Day
In the 80s and 90s I was working a lot with music recording.
Not this far back.
About this far back:
Cedar and colorful carpets were the rage — as were 24 track tape and lots of outboard gear.
And then this happened:
For those of you too young to know what this is, it is an Apple II computer. What a beauty.
Oh yes, and then this happened–the computer. Digital computer-based technology. The promise of the future.
It was an especially exciting time because of the new computer technologies being developed. Editing recordings by splicing analog tape and hiring musicians to record different acoustic instruments was giving way to electronic editing and multi timbral sequencing. Now anyone could have access to the marvelous digital music technology.
Finally I could create music tracks with sampled sounds that replicated brass instruments, string instruments and percussion. More amazingly, from a teacher’s perspective, I could have my students orchestrating songs—as young as elementary—and that’s what I did—I created one of the first music keyboard labs in the Province of Alberta. I received a rather prestigious award for my work. And, I was getting just enough praise from others to cloud my judgment. Feeling confident in what I was having my students do, I published an article in a music journal detailing my (or should I say my students’) accomplishments.
And then it happened—a turning point in my understanding of learning and schooling. You see, upon publication of my article, I got some pretty quick critique from other musicians. “These children should be in band and orchestra, not playing keyboards,” was the typical response.
Here it was, the first challenge I had received to my work. Darn, maybe I wasn’t so smart after all.
None of the critiques said exactly what children were missing. Perhaps it wasn’t entirely clear. Perhaps at the time it was more of an intuition. But according to many other musicians, something did seem amiss. At first I tried to convince myself that what I was doing was in the best interest of the students. By looking at the school system’s music goals and standards, my students were achieving more music knowledge than other traditionally taught students. I could argue that conceptually my students were learning more. I suppose I could have left it at that.
Now it might be immediately obvious to you just how clouded my judgement was. It took me a long time to realize that what I was doing to my students was actually a disservice. You see, I didn’t take into account that my students had bodies.
Bodies, you don’t say!
Yes, bodies! I didn’t take into consideration that learning and understanding begins with the body and becomes conceptual later. This seems so obvious now that it almost seems hardly worth mentioning. But when you are living in a language discourse that privileges one form of thinking and action over another, it is easy to overlook what should otherwise be obvious.
How could I have overlooked the obvious? Well you see, I was an experienced musician using computer-based digital technologies to replicate what I had already experienced. Every time we perceive something we are actually re-firing (so to speak) established neuronal cell assemblies (to put it simply).
One more time–that is actually an important statement: Every time we perceive something we are actually re-firing (so to speak) established neuronal cell assemblies.
I already knew how to play percussion instruments, brass instruments and string instruments. I knew what playing these instruments felt like. I had neuronal cell assemblies already established in my brain that re-fired when I heard a particular sound.
When I play a trumpet sound on a keyboard, I feel the experiences that I had experienced at an earlier time—the tightening of the embouchure, the pursing of the lips, the breathing, the other musicians beside me, the down beats represented by the arm movements of the conductor. One keyboard trumpet sound re-fires all these cell assemblies so that my experience is very rich in comparison to a novice (a child) who had not had similar bodily experiences. Conceptually a child can know and play a high G trumpet sound on a keyboard. But as far as bodily understanding, the child’s experience is barren. His/her understanding is stunted. A child, or novice, lacks the corporeal understanding (the re-firing of neurons that make the body feel something that it has experienced before) that gives “life” meaning. The understanding that a child, or novice, might achieve from playing the trumpet on the keyboard is reduced to bodiless information–nothing that could be said to represent a trumpeter’s body.
If you are a trumpet player, you will re-feel what it feels like to play high notes when you hear this. You will feel in your hands what it feels like to hold the trumpet. You will feel what it feels like because you will re-fire neurons in your brain that you wired together when you initially learned how to play the trumpet. If you don’t play the trumpet, sorry to say, you will not have the same experience–even if you wanted to.
This seems so obvious in hind sight. It is not difficult to understand. It astounds me now why, as a professional musician, I had overlooked something that seems so blatantly obvious. But I suppose, in my defense, I was encouraged to focus on the conceptual, on the abstract, on information and efficiency. Schooling goals, standards, and objectives toward those rather abstract concepts, encourage an obscuration of the body.
Rock Climbing Anyone?
You know, I have never climbed a rock climbing wall. I see lots of people doing it. My children have done it. But not me. So when I see someone climb a rock climbing wall, I can imagine what it ‘might’ feel like. But I do not have neuronal cell assemblies re-firing from my past experience. I don’t have the same ‘grasping neurons’ re-firing when I see someone grasp one of those colorful holders. I try to imagine what it might feel like, but it is only in comparison to other things I have grasped that look similar to that.
If you have ever climbed one of those walls, you will experience this next video differently than I do.
I’ve never bungee jumped either. I can try to imagine what this feels like, but it won’t be the same feeling those of you who have bungee jumped will feel. I didn’t really feel too much of anything. It looked as though it might be a bit frightening, but I can’t say I really felt it 🙂
Let’s use an apple example — I mean a real apple–the fruit.
Consider all the experiences you have had with apples–the contexts in which you have experienced them, felt them, tasted them, the weight, fresh, rotten, color, in store bins, on tress, cut up in your lunch, in salads, etc. In a recent undergraduate class of mine, we brain-stormed different experiences we all had with apples and in four minutes we came up with over 120 completely different experiences with apples. Students came up with ways they understood apples. Every single experience was something we could all relate to. Now consider this: what could you understand about apples if your only access to them were the experiences you could have with the iPad? It is easy to realize the limiting nature of the two-dimensional visual medium. But, and this is interesting, how many of curricular standards could ostensibly be met by interacting with a two dimensional screen?
How many of curricular standards could ostensibly be met by interacting with a two dimensional screen?
For those of you have have a horse, what would your understanding of horses be if your only contact with horses was limited to an iPad? Or for those of you who swim, or play a sport, or camp, or hike, or love.
And yet people will still argue all the benefits of incorporating iPads or computers into young children’s lives. Is there a problem with this?
Now this is not to say we shouldn’t ever use computer-based technologies. I use sophisticated music software regularly. But I have already established neuronal cell assemblies so that I re-live a rich past experience when I use the technological artifact.
What about everything we hear about technology-rich environments?
We sometimes hear the phrase “technology rich.” In reality, for novices (notice I say novices here), doesn’t the use of computer-based two dimensional screens lead to “technology barren” experience? Only when one has already had a rich corporeal experience that the technology can re-enliven the richness of experience (in other words, through your experiences you have wired together neurons that then re-fire when you perceive or think about the experience again). I only have to say, think of the last time you have a soft warm cinnamon bun, warm out of the oven, and if you have been lucky enough to have experienced this in the past, the neurons that were wired together when you experienced this in the past are re-firing now. For those of you who have only experienced cinnamon buns by seeing them on a computer screen, I am afraid your experience will be rather barren in comparison. So much for technology-rich.
I was a university student when the idea of artificial intelligence was all the rage. Of course, in time, people came to realize that a computer could never replicate the type of intelligence humans have. The simple reason is that computers don’t have human bodies. But it took a long time for that realization to emerge. In turn, a machine can have machine intelligence in a way that humans will never achieve. Humans don’t have machines for bodies. Perhaps intelligence is the wrong word.
All of this positions us well to critique schooling environments on the basis of bodily understanding. By taking into account the extent to which “the body” is obscured in the schooling experience, we can offer some valuable critique.
Rather than thinking only of the ‘information’ to be learned, we can refocus our view toward the bodily experience.
From Music Technology to Photography
Let’s talk scientific management, measurement, and objectification.
Have you ever heard the saying, “the test is only a snapshot of the student’s total ability”? It is interesting how we place so much value on a few snapshots. The fact that we even say something like this shows the extent to which we break our day up into time snippets.
You probably remember Gatto talking about breaking the day up into parcels of time and how that begins to distort the entirety of experiences. Experiences begin to be flattened, one small snippet having the same meaning as another. Flattened and abstracted like rivers on a map.
Something else you might find interesting is just how the photographic snapshots played a role in the development of the idea of efficiency. And almost everything you do in schools now is related in one way or another to efficiency. Even metaphors like growth mindset are judged by the ability to contribute to efficiency.
Anyway, here is the story.
MAREY films XVI man
Notice the timer on the left of the screen (after the first 27 seconds into the clip).
Did you happen to notice the date? 1895.
Notice the screen (grid) behind the images
Why the grid?
a : the dimensions, capacity, or amount of something ascertained by measuring
(2) : a system of standard units of measure
- metric measure
Let’s change up the question?
Do you ever feel as though you are on an assembly line doing what you have been told to do, when to do it, and how fast?
Do you wonder if students ever think they are on an assembly line, cranking out material as quickly as possible, the teacher setting the pace?
Do you sometimes feel as though the system is moving too fast, unable for anyone to slow things down?
Let’s change the focus:
There is a phrase in schooling literature that you probably hear often. It is “effective and efficient.” You know, “Our practices should be ‘effective and efficient’.” “Our research should lead to ‘effective and efficient’ practices.” “If we could make our schools more ‘efficient and effective’ our students would do better.”
Do you ever wonder where this drive to efficiency comes from? Not from children. They don’t go out to play in an “effective and efficient” manner. Not from people enjoying themselves. People don’t go and listen to a concert hoping it will be “effective and efficient.” People don’t go to a movie or read a book in hopes that it will be “effective and efficient.” And, as you have probably sensed from Frank Smith, “effective and efficient” doesn’t arise or out of, or support, the classic view of learning. Though interestingly, it seems to be quite prevalent within the official theory.
Let’s look at two historical pieces to our schooling puzzle.
At the top of the lecture I put a couple of clips showing something of two of the earliest photographic motion analysts. Let me share another with you here: Frank B. Gilbreth. The video clip is 30 minutes long so you will probably want to skim through parts of the video. But you will get a clearer understanding of the beginnings of time motion study and the technologies that helped make this possible
Original Films of Frank B. Gilbreth (1945) Society for the Advancement of Management
Even though you are not likely to want to view the entire clip, this will give you a better idea of the Gilbreth’s work and just how this work had such an influence on our thinking. A bit of skimming here will give you the idea.
So what do we have?
To analyze motion, you had to photograph a sequence of images, one after another, fractions of a second, and display them in a grid.
an eye toward efficiency
The second, Winslow’s efficiency.
So what do we have here?
In the factory, many men would quit because they could not stand the fast pace.
Wheel making was broken down into a hundred steps, different men working at different machines. Complete jobs were reduced into simple repetitive steps.
No need for a skilled craftsman.
Any job, if analyzed under the perspective of task orientation, can be done quickly and efficiently.
Management sets the pace.
High pay for hard work
Surveillance was the norm.
Discipline measures were regularly evoked.
No talking on the job.
Does any of this sound a bit familiar to our own schooling lives? Don’t many high school students work all day in school, then go home to work a second shift late into the evening, and then get up early to do it again the following day?
But where does this logic come from?
Isn’t discipline one of our commandments. Isn’t surveillance the norm? Aren’t students expected to get permission to go to the bathroom? Would it be fair to say that students are encouraged not to talk or to ask questions?
Are we hearing echoes of John Taylor Gatto’s speech?
What you might not know is that “efficiency” was an American buzz word in the early part of the century. Ladies’ Journals to the school board meeting rooms were abuzz with talk of “efficiency.”
Here is a little snippet you might enjoy.
Time Motion Study The Easier Way(1946) General Motors Corporation, Employee Cooperation Staff
Now keep in mind this was 1946. If Bob suggested to Marge today that she try to be more efficient in the kitchen he might just get an ear full–and rightfully so. But I suppose those were different times.
Ever wonder why educational researchers in universities spend their time trying to come up with “better” teaching methods? Every wonder how those educational researchers in universities spend their time trying to come up with “better” teaching methods? Motion studies of sorts. You find ways to turn out more work with the same effort.
Hey Dana, isn’t that ‘efficiency’?
Where did all of this ‘efficiency talk’ come from?
Bob and Marge were part of the efficiency story. Caught up in the efficiency wake.
What follows, though, is perhaps one of the most important influences on our thinking. Here is the source, at least passages from it. It is from Frederick Winslow Taylor’s book The Principles of Scientific Management. This was an important book that outlined the scientific / task management that, you will come to see, had an enormous effect on how our schools were designed and run. It seems a bit crazy in hind sight, but it is true. Frederick Winslow Taylor developed and refined the idea of scientific management that lead to greater efficiency in the workplace. Before long it was the rage to think of making everything efficient. Schools were eventually deliberately targeted.
As I said, this is only a few selections from Taylor’s book. You can probably skim it and get the gist. You will quickly recognize the commonality to the school environment (the institutional logic). I selected passages (boldface) that you could read allowing you to skim the other parts–just to make things a bit more efficient 🙂
After skimming through this we will enjoy the video clip Frederick Taylor — The Biggest Bastard Ever. But first the Principles of Scientific Management.
The Principles of Scientific Management
The remedy for the country’s inefficiency, “lies in systematic management” . . . Furthermore, “the fundamental principles of scientific management are applicable to all kinds of human activities, from our simplest individual acts to the work of our great corporations” — “to the management of our homes; the management of our farms; the management of the business of our tradesmen, large and small; of our churches, our philanthropic institutions, our universities, and our governmental departments.
“The principal object of management should be to secure the maximum prosperity for the employer, coupled with the maximum prosperity for each employ(é).”
“No one can be found who will deny that in the case of any single individual the greatest property can exist only when that individual has reached his highest state of efficiency; that is, when he is turning out his largest daily output.”
“That in a word, that maximum prosperity can exist only as the result of maximum productivity. p. 12
“Why is it, then, in the face of the self-evident fact that maximum prosperity can exist only as the result of the determined effort of each workman to turn out each day his largest possible day’s work, that the great majority of our men are deliberately doing just the opposite, and that even when the men have the best of intentions their work is in most cases far from efficient?” p. 15
“in order to have any hope of obtaining the initiative of his workmen the manager must give some special incentive to his men beyond that which is given to the average trade. This incentive can be given in several different ways, as, for example, the hope of rapid promotion or advancement; higher wages, either in the form of generous piece-work prices or of a premium or bonus of some kind for good and rapid work; shorter hours of labor; better surroundings and working conditions than are ordinarily given, etc., and, above all, this special incentive should be accompanied by that personal consideration for, and friendly contact with, his workmen which comes only from a genuine and kindly interest in the welfare of those under him. It is only by giving a special inducement or “incentive” of this kind that the employer can hope even approximately to get the “initiative” of his workmen. p. 34
Broadly speaking, then, the best type of management in ordinary use may be defined as management in which the workmen give their best initiative and in return receive some special incentive from their employers. This type of management will be referred to as the management of “initiative and incentive” in contradistinction to scientific management, or task management, with which it is to be compared. pp. 34-35
The task which the writer has before him, then, is the difficult one of trying to prove in a thoroughly convincing way that there is another type of management which is not only better but overwhelmingly better than the management of “initiative and incentive.”
Under scientific management the “initiative” of the workmen (that is their hard work, their good-will, and their ingenuity) is obtained with absolute uniformity and to a greater extent than is possible under the old system; and in addition to this improvement on the part of the men, the managers assume new burdens, new duties, and responsibilities never dreamed of in the past. The managers assume, for instance, the burden of gathering together all of the traditional knowledge which in the past has been possessed by the workmen and then of classifying, tabulating, and reducing this knowledge to rules, laws, and formulae which are immensely helpful to the workmen in doing their daily work. . . . They scientifically select and then train, teach, and develop the workman, whereas in the past he chose his own work and trained himself the best he could. . . . They heartily cooperate with the men so as to insure all of the work being done in accordance with the principles of the science which has been developed. p. 36
The development of a science . . . involves the establishment of many rules, laws, and formulae which replace the judgment of the individual workman and which can be effectively used only after having been systematically recorded, indexed, etc. pp. 37-38
Perhaps the most prominent single element in modern scientific management is the task idea. The work of every workman is fully planned out by the management at least one day in advance, and each man receives in most cases complete written instructions, describing in detail the task which he is to accomplish, as well as the means to be used in doing the work. . . . This task specifies not only what is to be done but how it is to be done and the exact time allowed for doing it. And whenever the workman succeeds in doing his task right, and within the time limit specified, he receives an addition of from 30 per cent to 100 per cent to his ordinary wages. p. 39
The first illustration is that of handling pig iron, and this work is chosen because it is typical of perhaps the crudest and most elementary form of labor which is performed by man. This work is done by men with no other implements than their hands. The pig-iron handler stoops down, picks up a pig weighing about 92 pounds, walks for a few feet or yards and then drops it on to the ground or upon a pile. This work is so crude and elementary in its nature that the writer firmly believes that it would be possible to train an intelligent, gorilla so as to become a more efficient pig-iron handler than any man can be. Yet it will be shown that the science of handling pig iron is so great and amounts to so much that it is impossible for the man who is best suited to this type of work to understand the principles of this science, or even to work in accordance with these principles without the aid of a man better educated than he is. And the further illustrations to be given will make it clear that in almost all of the mechanic arts the science which underlies each workman’s act is so great and amounts to so much that the workman who is best suited actually to do the work is incapable (either through lack of education or through insufficient mental capacity) of understanding this science. This is announced as a general principle, the truth of which will become apparent as one illustration after another is given. After showing these four elements in the handling of pig iron, several illustrations will be given of their application to different kinds of work in the field of the mechanic arts, at intervals in a rising scale, beginning with the simplest and ending with the more intricate forms of labor.
The writer has given above a brief description of three of the four elements which constitute the essence of scientific management: first, the careful selection of the workman, and, second and third, the method of first inducing and then training and helping the workman to work according to the scientific method. Nothing has as yet been said about the science of handling pig iron. The writer trusts, however, that before leaving this illustration the reader will be thoroughly convinced that there is a science of handling pig iron, and further that this science amounts to so much that the man who is suited to handle pig iron cannot possibly understand it, nor even work in accordance with the laws of this science, without the help of those who are over him.
The law which was developed is as follows: The law is confined to that class of work in which the limit of a man’s capacity is reached because he is tired out. It is the law of heavy laboring, corresponding to the work of the cart horse, rather than that of the trotter. Practically all such work consists of a heavy pull or a push on the man’s arms, that is, the man’s strength is exerted by either lifting or pushing something which he grasps in his hands. And the law is that for each given pull or push on the man’s arms it is possible for the workman to be under load for only a definite percentage of the day. For example, when pig iron is being handled (each pig weighing 92 pounds), a first-class workman can only be under load 43 per cent of the day. He must be entirely free from load during 57 per cent of the day. And as the load becomes lighter, the percentage of the day under which the man can remain under load increases. So that, if the workman is handling a half-pig, weighing 46 pounds, he can then be under load 58 per cent of the day, and only has to rest during 42 per cent. As the weight grows lighter the man can remain under load during a larger and larger percentage of the day, until finally a load is reached which he can carry in his hands all day long without being tired out. When that point has been arrived at this law ceases to be useful as a guide to a laborer’s endurance, and some other law must be found which indicates the man’s capacity for work. When a laborer is carrying a piece of pig iron weighing 92 pounds in his hands, it tires him about as much to stand still under the load as it does to walk with it, since his arm muscles are under the same severe tension whether he is moving or not. A man, however, who stands still under a load is exerting no horse-power whatever, and this accounts for the fact that no constant relation could be traced in various kinds of heavy laboring work between the foot-pounds of energy exerted and the tiring effect of the work on the man. It will also be clear that in all work of this kind it is necessary for the arms of the workman to be completely free from load (that is, for the workman to rest) at frequent intervals. Throughout the time that the man is under a heavy load the tissues of his arm muscles are in process of degeneration, and frequent periods of rest are required in order that the blood may have a chance to restore these tissues to their normal condition. To return now to our pig-iron handlers at the Bethlehem Steel Company. If Schmidt had been allowed to attack the pile of 47 tons of pig iron without the guidance or direction of a man who understood the art, or science, of handling pig iron, in his desire to earn his high wages he would probably have tired himself out by 11 or 12 o’clock in the day. He would have kept so steadily at work that his muscles would not have had the proper periods of rest absolutely needed for recuperation, and he would have been completely exhausted early in the day. By having a man, however, who understood this law, stand over him and direct his work, day after day, until he acquired the habit of resting at proper intervals, he was able to work at an even gait all day long without unduly tiring himself. Now one of the very first requirements for a man who is fit to handle pig iron as a regular occupation that he shall be so stupid and so phlegmatic that he more nearly resembles in his mental make-up the ox than any other type. The man who is mentally alert and intelligent is for this very reason entirely unsuited to what would, for him, be the grinding monotony of work of this character. Therefore the workman who is best suited to handling pig iron is unable to understand the real science of doing this class of work. He is so stupid that the word “percentage” has no meaning to him, and he must consequently be trained by a man more intelligent than himself into the habit of working in accordance with the laws of this science before he can be successful. The writer trusts that it is now clear that even in the case of the most elementary form of labor that is known, there is a science, and that when the man best suited to this class of work has been carefully selected, when the science of doing the work has been developed, and when the carefully selected man has been trained to work in accordance with this science, the results obtained must of necessity be overwhelmingly greater than those which are possible under the plan of “initiative and incentive.”
Although the reader may be convinced that there is a certain science back of the handling of pig iron, still it is more than likely that he is still skeptical as to the existence of a science for doing other kinds of laboring. One of the important objects of this paper is to convince its readers that every single act of every workman can be reduced to a science. With the hope of fully convincing the reader of this fact, therefore, the writer proposes to give several more simple illustrations from among the thousands which are at hand.
For example, the average man would question whether there is much of any science in the work of shoveling. Yet there is but little doubt, if any intelligent reader of this paper were deliberately to set out to find what may be called the foundation of the science of shoveling, that with perhaps 15 to 20 hours of thought and analysis he would be almost sure to have arrived at the essence of this science. On the other hand, so completely are the rule-of-thumb ideas still dominant that the writer has never met a single shovel contractor to whom it had ever even occurred that there was such a thing as the science of shoveling. This science is so elementary as to be almost self-evident.
For a first-class shoveler there is a given shovel load at which he will do his biggest day’s work. What is this shovel load? Will a first-class man do more work per day with a shovel load of 5 pounds, 10 pounds, 15 pounds, 20, 25, 30, or 40 pounds? Now this is a question which can be answered only through carefully made experiments. By first selecting two or three first-class shovelers, and paying them extra wages for doing trustworthy work, and then gradually varying the shovel load and having all the conditions accompanying the work carefully observed for several weeks by men who were used to experimenting, it was found that a first-class man would do his biggest day’s work with a shovel load of about 21 pounds. For instance, that this man would shovel a larger tonnage per day with a 21-pound load than with a 24-pound load or than with an 18-pound load on his shovel. It is, of course, evident that no shoveler can always take a load of exactly 21 pounds on his shovel, but nevertheless, although his load may vary 3 or 4 pounds one way or the other, either below or above the 21 pounds, he will do his biggest day’s work when his average for the day is about 21 pounds. The writer does not wish it to be understood that this is the whole of the art or science of shoveling. There are many other elements, which together go to make up this science. But he wishes to indicate the important effect which this one piece of scientific knowledge has upon the work of shoveling.
At the works of the Bethlehem Steel Company, for example, as a result of this law, instead of allowing each shoveler to select and own his own shovel, it became necessary to provide some 8 to 10 different kinds of shovels, etc., each one appropriate to handling a given type of material not only so as to enable the men to handle an average load of 21 pounds, but also to adapt the shovel to several other requirements which become perfectly evident when this work is studied as a science. A large shovel tool room was built, in which were stored not only shovels but carefully designed and standardized labor implements of all kinds, such as picks, crowbars, etc. This made it possible to issue to each workman a shovel which would hold a load of 21 pounds of whatever class of material they were to handle: a small shovel for ore, say, or a large one for ashes. Iron ore is one of the heavy materials which are handled in a works of this kind, and rice coal, owing to the fact that it is so slippery on the shovel, is one of the lightest materials. And it was found on studying the rule-of-thumb plan at the Bethlehem Steel Company, where each shoveler owned his own shovel, that he would frequently go from shoveling ore, with a load of about 30 pounds per shovel, to handling rice coal, with a load on the same shovel of less than 4 pounds. In the one case, he was so overloaded that it was impossible for him to do a full day’s work, and in the other case he was so ridiculously underloaded that it was manifestly impossible to even approximate a day’s work.
Briefly to illustrate some of the other elements which go to make up the science of shoveling, thousands of stop-watch observations were made to study just how quickly a laborer, provided in each case with the proper type of shovel, can push his shovel into the pile of materials and then draw it out properly loaded. These observations were made first when pushing the shovel into the body of the pile. Next when shoveling on a dirt bottom, that is, at the outside edge of the pile, and next with a wooden bottom, and finally with an iron bottom. Again a similar accurate time study was made of the time required to swing the shovel backward and then throw the load for a given horizontal distance, accompanied by a given height. This time study was made for various combinations of distance and height. With data of this sort before him, coupled with the law of endurance described in the case of the pig-iron handlers, it is evident that the man who is directing shovelers can first teach them the exact methods which should be employed to use their strength to the very best advantage, and can then assign them daily tasks which are so just that the workman can each day be sure of earning the large bonus which is paid whenever he successfully performs this task.
There were about 600 shovelers and laborers of this general class in the yard of the Bethlehem Steel Company at this time. These men were scattered in their work over a yard which was, roughly, about two miles long and half a mile wide. In order that each workman should be given his proper implement and his proper instructions for doing each new job, it was necessary to establish a detailed system for directing men in their work, in place of the old plan of handling them in large groups, or gangs, under a few yard foremen. As each workman came into the works in the morning, he took out of his own special pigeonhole, with his number on the outside, two pieces of paper, one of which stated just what implements he was to get from the tool room and where he was to start to work, and the second of which gave the history of his previous day’s work; that is, a statement of the work which he had done, how much he had earned the day before, etc. Many of these men were foreigners and unable to read and write, but they all knew at a glance the essence of this report, because yellow paper showed the man that he had failed to do his full task the day before, and informed him that he had not earned as much as $1.85 a day, and that none but high-priced men would be allowed to stay permanently with this gang. The hope was further expressed that he would earn his full wages on the following day. So that whenever the men received white slips they knew that everything was all right, and whenever they received yellow slips they realized that they must do better or they would be shifted to some other class of work.
Dealing with every workman as a separate individual in this way involved the building of a labor office for the superintendent and clerks who were in charge of this section of the work. In this office every laborer’s work was planned out well in advance, and the workmen were all moved from place to place by the clerks with elaborate diagrams or maps of the yard before them, very much as chessmen are moved on a chess-board, a telephone and messenger system having been installed for this purpose. In this way a large amount of the time lost through having too many men in one place and too few in another, and through waiting between jobs, was entirely eliminated. Under the old system the workmen were kept day after day in comparatively large gangs, each under a single foreman, and the gang was apt to remain of pretty nearly the same size whether there was much or little of the particular kind of work on hand which this foreman had under
Bricklaying is one of the oldest of our trades.
For hundreds of years there has been little or no improvement made in the implements and materials used in this trade, nor in fact in the method of laying bricks. In spite of the millions of men who have practiced this trade, no great improvement has been evolved for many generations. Here, then, at least one would expect to find but little gain possible through scientific analysis and study. Mr. Frank B. Gilbreth, a member of our Society, who had himself studied bricklaying in his youth, became interested in the principles of scientific management, and decided to apply them to the art of bricklaying. He made an intensely interesting analysis and study of each movement of the bricklayer, and one after another eliminated all unnecessary movements and substituted fast for slow motions. He experimented with every minute element which in any way affects the speed and the tiring of the bricklayer.
He developed the exact position which each of the feet of the bricklayer should occupy with relation to the wall, the mortar box, and the pile of bricks, and so made it unnecessary for him to take a step or two toward the pile of bricks and back again each time a brick is laid. He studied the best height for the mortar box and brick pile, and then designed a scaffold, with a table on it, upon which all of the materials are placed, so as to keep the bricks, the mortar, the man, and the wall in their proper relative positions. These scaffolds are adjusted, as the wall grows in height, for all of the bricklayers by a laborer especially detailed for this purpose, and by this means the bricklayer is saved the exertion of stooping down to the level of his feet for each brick and each trowel full of mortar and then straightening up again. Think of the waste of effort that has gone on through all these years, with each bricklayer lowering his body, weighing, say, 150 pounds, down two feet and raising it up again every time a brick (weighing about 5 pounds) is laid in the wall! And this each bricklayer did about one thousand times a day.
As a result of further study, after the bricks are unloaded from the cars, and before bringing them to the bricklayer, they are carefully sorted by a laborer, and placed with their best edge up on a simple wooden frame, constructed so as to enable him to take hold of each brick in the quickest time and in the most advantageous position. In this way the bricklayer avoids either having to turn the brick over or end for end to examine it before laying it, and he saves, also, the time taken in deciding which is the best edge and end to place on the outside of the wall. In most cases, also, he saves the time taken in disentangling the brick from a disorderly pile on the scaffold. This “pack” of bricks (as Mr. Gilbreth calls his loaded wooden frames) is placed by the helper in its proper position on the adjustable scaffold close to the mortar box.
We have all been used to seeing bricklayers tap each brick after it is placed on its bed of mortar several times with the end of the handle of the trowel so as to secure the right thickness for the joint. Mr. Gilbreth found that by tempering the mortar just right, the bricks could be readily bedded to the proper depth by a downward pressure of the hand with which they are laid. He insisted that his mortar mixers should give special attention to tempering the mortar, and so save the time consumed in tapping the brick. Through all of this minute study of the motions to be made by the bricklayer in laying bricks under standard conditions, Mr. Gilbreth has reduced his movements from eighteen motions per brick to five, and even in one case to as low as two motions per brick. He has given all of the details of this analysis to the profession in the chapter headed “Motion Study,” of his book entitled “Bricklaying System,” published by Myron C. Clerk Publishing Company, New York and Chicago; E. F. N. Spon, of London. An analysis of the expedients used by Mr. Gilbreth in reducing the motions of his bricklayers from eighteen to five shows that this improvement has been made in three different ways: First. He has entirely dispensed with certain movements which the bricklayers in the past believed were necessary, but which a careful study and trial on his part have shown to be useless. Second. He has introduced simple apparatus, such as his adjustable scaffold and his packets for holding the bricks, by means of which, with a very small amount of cooperation from a cheap laborer, he entirely eliminates a lot of tiresome and time-consuming motions which are necessary for the brick-layer who lacks the scaffold and the packet. Third. He teaches his bricklayers to make simple motions with both hands at the same time, where before they completed a motion with the right hand and followed it later with one from the left hand.
For example, Mr. Gilbreth teaches his brick-layer to pick up a brick in the left hand at the same instant that he takes a trowel full of mortar with the right hand. This work with two hands at the same time is, of course, made possible by substituting a deep mortar box for the old mortar board (on which the mortar spread out so thin that a step or two had to be taken to reach it) and then placing the mortar box and the brick pile close together, and at the proper height on his new scaffold. These three kinds of improvements are typical of the ways in which needless motions can be entirely eliminated and quicker types of movements substituted for slow movements when scientific motion study, as Mr. Gilbreth calls his analysis, time study, as the writer has called similar work, are, applied in any trade.
For nearly thirty years past, time-study men connected with the management of machine-shops have been devoting their whole time to a scientific motion study, followed by accurate time study, with a stop-watch, of all of the elements connected with the machinist’s work. When, therefore, the teachers, who form one section of the management, and who are cooperating with the working men, are in possession both of the science of cutting metals and of the equally elaborate motion-study and time-study science connected with this work, it is not difficult to appreciate why even the highest class mechanic is unable to do his best work without constant daily assistance from his teachers. And if this fact has been made clear to the reader, one of the important objects in writing this paper will have been realized.
It is hoped that the illustrations which have been given make it apparent why scientific management must inevitably in all cases produce overwhelmingly greater results, both for the company and its employees, than can be obtained with the management of “initiative and incentive.” And it should also be clear that these results have been attained, not through a marked superiority in the mechanism of one type of management over the
The necessity for systematically teaching workmen how to work to the best advantage has been several times referred to. It seems desirable, therefore, to explain in rather more detail how this teaching is done. In the case of a machine-shop which is managed under the modern system, detailed written instructions as to the best way of doing each piece of work are prepared in advance, by men in the planning department. These instructions represent the combined work of several men in the planning room, each of whom has his own specialty, or function. One of them, for instance, is a specialist on the proper speeds and cutting tools to be used. He uses the slide-rules which have been above described as an aid, to guide him in obtaining proper speeds, etc. Another man analyzes the best and quickest motions to be made by the workman in setting the work up in the machine and removing it, etc. Still a third, through the time-study records which have been accumulated, makes out a timetable giving the proper speed for doing each element of the work. The directions of all of these men, however, are written on a single instruction card, or sheet. These men of necessity spend most of their time in the planning department, because they must be close to the records and data which they continually use in their work, and because this work requires the use of a desk and freedom from interruption. Human nature is such, however, that many of the workmen, if left to themselves, would pay but little attention to their written instructions. It is necessary, therefore, to provide teachers (called functional foremen) to see that the workmen both understand and carry out these written instructions. Under functional management, the old-fashioned single foreman is superseded by eight different men, each one of whom has his own special duties, and these men, acting as the agents for the planning department (see paragraph 234 to 245 of the paper entitled “Shop Management”), are the expert teachers, who are at all times in the shop, helping, and directing the workmen. Being each one chosen for his knowledge and personal skill in his specialty, they are able not only to tell the workman what he should do, but in case of necessity they do the work themselves in the presence of the workman, so as to show him not only the best but also the quickest methods. One of these teachers (called the inspector) sees to it that he understands the drawings and instructions for doing the work. He teaches him how to do work of the right quality; how to make it fine and exact where it should be fine, and rough and quick where accuracy is not required,—the one being just as important for success as the other. The second teacher (the gang boss) shows him how to set up the job in his machine, and teaches him to make all of his personal motions in the quickest and best way. The third (the speed boss) sees that the machine is run at the best speed and that the proper tool is used in the particular way which will enable the machine to finish its product in the shortest possible time. In addition to the assistance given by these teachers, the workman receives orders and help from four other men; from the “repair boss” as to the adjustment, cleanliness, and general care of his machine, belting, etc.; from the “time clerk,” as to everything relating to his pay and to proper written reports and returns; from the “route clerk,” as to the order in which he does his work and as to the movement of the work from one part of the shop to another; and, in case a workman gets into any trouble with any of his various bosses, the “disciplinarian” interviews him.
It must be understood, of course, that all workmen engaged on the same kind of work do not require the same amount of individual teaching and attention from the functional foremen. The men who are new at a given operation naturally require far more teaching and watching than those who have been a long time at the same kind of jobs. Now, when through all of this teaching and this minute instruction the work is apparently made so smooth and easy for the workman, the first impression is that this all tends to make him a mere automaton, a wooden man. As the workmen frequently say when they first come under this system, “Why, I am not allowed to think or move without some one interfering or doing it for me!” The same criticism and objection, however, can be raised against all other modern subdivision of labor. It does not follow, for example, that the modern surgeon is any more narrow or wooden a man than the early settler of this country. The frontiersman, however, had to be not only a surgeon, but also an architect, house-builder, lumberman, farmer, soldier, and doctor, and he had to settle his law cases with a gun. You would hardly say that the life of the modern surgeon is any more narrowing, or that he is more of a wooden man than the frontiersman. The many problems to be met and solved by the surgeon are just as intricate and difficult and as developing and broadening in their way as were those of the frontiersman. And it should be remembered that the training of the surgeon has been almost identical in type with the teaching and training which is given to the workman under scientific management. The surgeon, all through his early years, is under the closest supervision of more experienced men, who show him in the minutest way how each element of his work is best done. They provide him with the finest implements, each one of which has been the subject of special study and development, and then insist upon his using each of these implements in the very best way. All of this teaching, however, in no way narrows him. On the contrary he is quickly given the very best knowledge of his predecessors; and, provided (as he is, right from the start) with standard implements and methods which represent the best knowledge of the world up to date, he is able to use his own originality and ingenuity to make real additions to the world’s knowledge, instead of reinventing things which are old. In a similar way the workman who is cooperating with his many teachers under scientific management has an opportunity to develop which is at least as good as and generally better than that which he had when the whole problem was “up to him” and he did his work entirely unaided.
Do you see some of the connections between what we do in schools and the principles laid down by Taylor? Do you see some of the connections between what we do in schools and the bricks laid down by brick layers? How about:
Perhaps the most prominent single element in modern scientific management is the task idea. The work of every workman is fully planned out by the management at least one day in advance, and each man receives in most cases complete written instructions, describing in detail the task which he is to accomplish, as well as the means to be used in doing the work. . . . This task specifies not only what is to be done but how it is to be done and the exact time allowed for doing it.
Sounds a bit like a lesson plan, the associated activities, and administrative management.
Now that you have read some of Taylor’s own words, let’s take a look at another summary.
(I know that if you have take my ED 611 Theories of Teaching and Learning class you might already be familiar with these next two videos.)
Frederick Taylor – The biggest bastard ever PT 1
Frederick Taylor – The biggest bastard ever PT 2
So there we have it. Frederick Winslow Taylor–our first history lesson for the week.
Perhaps in the future when someone asks, “What five people had the most influence in American education?” you might have a different answer than the typical answer given in university classes. I always thought the answer was Gardener and his seven (nine) intelligences, or John Dewey and his thoughts on progressive education. I am starting to think that Frederick Winslow Taylor would fit into the ranks of the most influential.
It might be a bit more clear why we have such an emphasis on ‘work books’, tasks, and task completion in schools. Even the educational research portrays ‘the task’ as all important. I have an article sitting on my desk now–“Selecting and Creating Mathematical Tasks: From Research to Practice.” Of course, as you might expect, it is speaking to efficiency.
And, of course, if we didn’t have students trying to comply with tasks in the most “efficient” way possible, we might not have the motivation problems we have in schools. As Dan Pink points out in the next talk, “if-then rewards work really well for those sorts of tasks where there is a simple set of rules and a clear destination to go to. Rewards, by their very nature, narrow our focus, concentrate the mind; that’s why they work in so many cases. So, for tasks like this, a narrow focus, where you just see the goal right there, zoom straight ahead to it, they work really well. . . .”
I guess that is how a lot of our school tasks are designed. He continues:
. . . how we motivate people, how we apply our human resources– it’s built entirely around these extrinsic motivators, around carrots and sticks. That’s actually fine for many kinds of 20th century tasks. But for 21st century tasks, that mechanistic, reward-and-punishment approach doesn’t work, often doesn’t work, and often does harm. . . .
. . . People offered the medium level of rewards did no better than people offered the small rewards. But this time, people offered the highest rewards, they did the worst of all. In eight of the nine tasks we examined across three experiments, higher incentives led to worse performance.
Let’s let Alfie Kohn weigh in:
Alfie Kohn: “Achievement vs. learning”
Did he say “effective and efficient”?
Go Alfie Go!
One last little section. The Wheelwright
What could a wheelwright possibly have to do with us?
We listened to Frederick Winslow Taylor speak about efficiency and we get a good sense of the development of scientific management. Albert Borgmann, in his book Technology and the Character of Contemporary Life gives a wonderful analysis of how people felt during shift from craftsman to factory worker.
The important thing for us, I think, is that we become more aware of how people who worked in pre-technological orientations (such as craftspeople) had a very different relationship to each other and to the environment. The wheelwright had a very personal relationship with his work, other people, and the environment. That changed completely when the wheelwright started to manufacture wheels in a factory.
Before I print out the passage from the book, let me say more directly the connection this has to all of us. In our considerations of teaching and the relationships we have with students, other colleagues, administrators, and the curriculum, we begin to recognize the influences of the factory model and Winslow’s scientific management. The relationships we have are very objectified, driven by efficiency. Our natural inclinations toward care and love toward the earth and toward others is forced to give way to perceiving events as discrete entities and human endeavors as problems to be solved.
Our natural inclinations toward care and love toward the earth and toward others is forced to give way to perceiving events as discrete entities and human endeavors as problems to be solved.
Listen to how Borgmann talks of the shifting experience of the wheelwright:
I will boldface Borgmann’s text and leave my analysis italicized.
Technology and the Character of Contemporary Life
Since the transformative power of technology is very uneven chronologically, settings that approached the character of a world of things still prevailed at the beginning of this century.
This is simply saying that historically, the effects of technology, and our technological view, has not happened smoothly through time. We don’t jump cleanly from one era to the next. There seems to be a flux, an ebb and flow in individual perspectives. He continues:
Here it pays to look closely, to see in one case and in detail how nature and culture were interwoven and how this texture was rent [a large tear in a piece of fabric] by the advance of technology and overtaken by anonymity.
There is a suggestion here that nature and culture were interwoven in ways that technology, or the use of technology, or we might say our technological perspectives, tear apart.
The case I want to consider is that of a wheelwright’s shop just prior to its dissolution.
a wheelwright is a person who makes or repairs wooden wheels.
A moving account has been given by George Sturt, the last in a succession of wheelwrights.
Since the web of relations is so tight and manifold, it is difficult to present it in an abstract and summary way.
Borgmann prefaces his analysis here by warning us that this is not something that we can simply deal with abstractly and simply. There is a great deal to consider, and a superficial analysis will not suffice. The phenomenon in question is part of a very complex web of relations, and for us to understand this with any depth, requires finding ways into the phenomenon. He will begin his analysis, as he says, looking into the relation of humans to nature.
But let us begin with those aspects in which the relation of humans to nature is singled out. The experience of cultivating the land is still alive at this time in England, and Sturt speaks repeatedly of “the age-old effort of colonizing England.”
I don’t know about you, but I find this statement, “the experience of cultivating the land is still alive at this time” to be revealing in itself. There is a suggestion here that experiences can live, and then die away—that experiences can be relevant and later become irrelevant. This is important for us to keep in mind as we analyze our own understanding of schooling and education.
But he does not understand colonizing as the domination of nature, i.e., as conquering and subduing, but as an adaption of people to the land, and he paraphrases it as the “age-long effort of Englishmen to get themselves close and ever closer into England.”
Often, when we think of past historical events, such as the colonization of England, we bring our own prejudices with us to our interpretation. We are very used to thinking of historical interactions, such as colonizing, as domination, conquering or subduing. But Borgmann alerts us to another thinking, that is of “getting close.” This closeness suggests the need for adjusting one’s self to the world at that time.
What I find, even more interesting, is how things are disclosed to us as we have experiences with things. Borgmann will say, that that land will disclose itself in a particular way as people adjust to the land. There is a sort of reciprocity here.
As people adjust to the land, the land discloses itself to the people. There is “a close relationship between the tree-clad country-side and the English who dwelt there.” Sturt speaks of “the affection and the reverence bred of this.”
This is not our way of thinking. These are not our typical words. “There is “a close relationship between the tree-clad country-side and the English who dwelt there.” Furthermore, we do not typically think in ways that suggest that we derive an affection and reverence. Why is this? What is there about this time and perspective that has the wheelwright talking of the relationship people have with the land? When we try to think this way, we come to say, “okay, yes, there was a relationship between humans and nature.” But it is not that simple. It is not abstract, it is not a simple cause and effect, and nature is not something to be challenged forth and ordered about. This is a relationship with nature that seems to elude us in our technological settings. (I am taking this to be important for our educational thinking because I have been making the suggestion that technological settings alter not only our relationships to nature and to things and entities, but also to each other.)
But it is impossible to abstract a relationship in this pretechnological setting that obtains merely between human beings and nature!
So, it is not simply a relationship between human beings and nature that takes the wheelwright into the woods, there is clearly a goal in mind, that is the search for timber. But, we should ask, what is timber? Better yet, how does the timber show itself to the wheelwright? (I am, for our purposes, trying to reinforce this idea of look to see how entities show themselves. This provides us with a different sort of question. We are looking not so much for information, but rather a showing. We are not simply asking something like “what is a student,” but rather “how does the students show him/herself, within this environment.)
What takes the wheelwright into “sunny woodland solitudes,” “into winter woods or along leafless hedgerows,” and “across wet water -meadows in February” is the search for timber. But “timber was far from being a prey, a helpless victim, to a machine,”
Here Borgmann brings the technological question to bear on our analysis. He has incorporated our current understanding of what technologies, and in this case, machines, can do. He is reinforcing the idea of how technologies can have entities show themselves, or who entities might be revealed. Borgmann also suggests to us how the pre-technological wheelwright’s view would have had a different way of having timber show itself.
But “timber was far from being a prey, a helpless victim, to a machine,”
Sturt says, and continues: “Rather it would lend its subtle virtues to the man who knew how to humor it: with him, as with an understanding friend, it would co-operate .”
When was the last time you thought of timber as having subtle virtues, or even having a relationship with it, or personifying it — “it would cooperate like an understanding friend.”
Next Borgmann contrasts the experience of domination with mastery.
This is a relationship not of domination but of mastery. If the wheelwright, Sturt says elsewhere, “was really master of his timber, if he knew what he had already got in stock and also what was likely to be wanted in years to come, he kept a watch always for timber with special curve, suitable for hames (two curved pieces of iron or wood forming or attached to the collar of a draft horse, to which the traces (each of the two side straps, chains, or ropes by which a horse is attached to a vehicle that it is pulling.) are attached), or shaft-braces , or waggon-heads, or hounds, or tailboard rails, or whatever else the tree-shape might suggest.” Such respectful working with nature is not just as close to nature as conservation; it opens up dimensions that remain otherwise closed. “Under the plane (it is little used now),” Sturt says, “or under the axe (if it is all but obsolete) timber disclosed qualities hardly to be found otherwise.” And elsewhere he says:
With the wedges cleaving down between the clinging fibres— as he let out the wood-scent, listened to the tearing splitting sounds— the workman found his way into a part of our environment— felt the laws of woodland vitality— not otherwise visited or suspected.
The description of the cutting of the wood is quite poetic—letting out the wood-scent, listening to the sounds of the wood. The woodland has a vitality about it, and we here the workman ‘finding’ his way ‘into’ that part of the environment. We can imagine the entering in. There is an intimacy that seems nonexistent in the technological challenging that we find in our technological era.
Borgmann is not going to help us understand that there is an web of relationships inherent in any entity that reveals itself to us. An entity, a thing, consists of more than simply the material it is made of. We can think back to Aristotle’s discussion of the four causes: the material cause, the efficient cause, the formal cause, and the
But again the intimacy of the wheelwright with nature did not stop with the materials but embraced his entire world by way of the needs of his customers. Sturt puts it this way:
And so we got curiously intimate with the peculiar needs of the neighbourhood. In farm-waggon or dung-cart, barley-roller, plough, water-barrel or what not, the dimensions we chose, the curves we followed (and almost every piece of timber was curved) were imposed upon us by the nature of the soil in this or that farm, the gradient of this or that hill, the temper of this or that customer or his choice perhaps in horseflesh.
So the wheelwright not only has a relationship with the timber, but also a relationship with his customer’s needs and the environment in which the customer’s wagons would be used. We should think about this for a moment. The pre-technological view encouraged, or even necessitated an, I don’t want to say understanding because we tend to think of understanding as knowledge—and the wheelwright’s enhanced, or enlarged perspective seems to be more than an accumulation of knowledge. There seems to be an intimacy. “And so we got curiously intimate with the peculiar needs of the neighbourhood.” Etymologically we find the sense of being closely acquainted, and acquainted had the sense of personally known. Cherished, affectionate, faithful. Curiously intimate almost suggests an insight, or even a way of living the life of the customer’s needs.
And similarly he says in another place: The field , the farm -yard, the roads and hills, the stress of weather, the strength and shape of horses, the lifting power of men, all were factors which had determined in the old villages how the farm tackle must be made, of what timber and shape and of what dimensions, often to the sixteenth of an inch.
So there was clearly a web of relations. Before I go on, let me share with you another example that might help you think of the web of relations.
From Richard Polt’s ‘Heidegger’: regarding the referential totality
Let’s take Heidegger’s own example, a turn signal on a car. I am driving in the united States. As I approach an intersection, the left turn signal on the car ahead of me begins to flash. I understand that the car will slow down, look back to my right, turn on my own right turn signal, and move into the right lane to pass the car ahead of me.
I correctly interpreted the left turn signal — not by staring at the blinking light, not by analyzing it theoretically, but by responding capably. My competent reaction involved familiarity with the whole system of references that was at work here; I had to be comfortable with a complex set of traffic regulations and driving skills. If the system of references were different, the correct interpretation of the turn signal would differ too. For example, if I were in Britain, my behavior would have to take account of the convention of driving on the left side of the road. Sighs always function with an overall environment, and alert us to our current place in the environment. p. 53
So, back to Borgmann, when we think of any phenomenon, we can also recognize that there is a very complex web of relations connected to it and that give it meaning. Something doesn’t just show itself as an independent, discrete, object, but rather as something that comes out of a referential totality.
You can easily see with the signal light example that there are social aspects to the signaling. Borgmann speaks to some of the social aspects of the wheelwright’s endeavor. Borgmann continues:
This web of relations had, finally, its social aspects. It contained different guilds or groups, but no classes, i.e., divisions of people whose political and especially economic interests were opposed to one another.
So in the pre-technological setting, the group distinctions were not based on political or economic interests. Any distinctions were made in relation to nature, i.e. from where the materials derive and from the environment in which the wheels would be used.
The different groups had their character from their work and their relation to nature. In his search for timber, the wheelwright found not only trees but also “country men of a shy type, good to meet.” And back at his shop he was met by the carters, “a whole country -side of strong and good-tempered Englishmen. With the timber and the horses they seemed to bring the lonely woodlands, the far-off roads into the little town.” The social network was sustained by fidelity, by wagons that were built to last a lifetime and that were carefully repaired when they had broken down. Prices were charged by tradition and not by calculation of costs and profits. The tie between employer and employed was one of “kindly feeling” as Sturt puts it, a relation of resourcefulness and trust.
So, to go back a few lines, the wheelwright did find himself in a social context with others, but those others had the same interest as the wheelwright. None had been separated out, or removed from the common interest, but political or economic concerns. The political and economic concerns derive from a perspective of control.
Sturt’s account is remarkable not only for its portrayal of the strength and character of a pretechnological world of things. It is also painfully aware of the rise of technology and the destruction of the pretechnological setting. This process too becomes visible at the reference points of nature, materials, and social relations. Accelerated by the demands of the First World War, a “sort of greedy prostitution desecrated the ancient woods. . . . I resented it,” Sturt says, “resented seeing the fair timber callously felled at the wrong time of year, cut too soon, not ‘seasoned’ at all.”
This is a very insightful distinction Sturt makes. He is wittnessing the change between the pre-technological and the technological mindset. There is a difference in the way the world is treated, the way entities are treated, the way nature is treated, and the way people are treated. And, this treatment comes from an acceptance of a technological way of thinking about and viewing the world. And, with this new way of seeing and acting, things, entities, show themselves differently than they did within the pre-technological view.
What’s more, this treatment is not simply relegated to nature, but finds its way into the shop as well.
The conquest of nature is not confined to the treatment of the forests but moves into the wheelwright’s shop too, replacing skill with mechanical power which can “drive, with relentless unintelligence, through every resistance.”
This is interesting, skill is replaced with mechanical power and the result is a relentless unintelligence that pushes through every resistance.
We can find parallels here with schooling and education. This is so much of what Gatto is talking about when he is talking about the logic of the school mind. It is mechanical, relentless, and unintelligent in its treatment of others.
As said before, domination is not an end in itself but serves to secure more radically the products of labor. Thus, as Sturt points out, “work was growing less interesting to the workman , although far more sure in its results.” And domination provides more income for the purchase of commodities, but at the same time it disengages the worker from the world. This is Sturt’s experience in the following passage:
Of course wages are higher— many a workman to-day receives a larger income than I was able to get as “profit” when I was an employer. But no higher wage, no income, will buy for men that satisfaction which of old— until machinery made drudges of them—streamed into their muscles all day long from close contact with iron, timber, clay, wind and wave, horse-strength.
These transformations finally touched the social relations as well. “‘The Men,’ ” Sturt says of his employees, “though still my friends, as I fancied, became machine ‘hands.’” The loss of skill went hand in hand with the loss of rustic village life, and the change in the living situation upset the old social relations. Sturt, speaking of the changes in the life of one wheelwright in particular, says:
I was not in touch, through him, with the quiet dignified country life of England and I was more of a capitalist. Each of us had slipped a little nearer to the ignominious class division of these present times— I to the employer’s side, he to the disregarded workman’s.
Sturt had an uncanny sense for the transformative power that changed the face of his world. He recognized its concealment, the semblance, i.e., as though technology were only a more efficient way of doing what had been done throughout the ages. And he recognized its radical novelty, the fact that technology upsets the tradition from the ground up. The technological changes forced him to introduce modern machines and take in a partner who could supervise the new ways of working. “Neither my partner nor myself,” he says in retrospect, “realised at all that a new world (newer than ever America was to the Pilgrim Fathers) had begun even then to form all around us.”
These features become visible when we learn to see how the presence of things is replaced with the availability of commodities and how availability is procured through devices. Devices, that was the claim, dissolve the coherent and engaging character of the pretechnological world of things. In a device, the relatedness of the world is replaced by a machinery, but the machinery is concealed, and the commodities, which are made available by a device, are enjoyed without the encumbrance of or the engagement with a context.
Borgmann, Albert (2009-08-14). Technology and the Character of Contemporary Life: A Philosophical Inquiry (Kindle Locations 1007-1019). University of Chicago Press. Kindle Edition.
I have been trying to juxtapose two very different types of environments–environments that acknowledge and nurture the human body, and environments that disregard the human body by objectifying it and manipulating it.
Now, if we think back to Gatto’s Seven Lessons, we recognize a similar distinction. He articulates those “schooling influences” that disregard the body (or control the body). When our bodies are take away from us we no longer have the same relationship to our human life and the natural environment.
It becomes a bit clearer now when we read Smith’s work. The classic theory of learning is pointing to those pre-technological/industrial experiences. Experiences that involve and enhance the body. The official theory of learning objectifies the body and thrusts the body in control and management mechanisms.
I tried to give an example of how I was caught in a discourse that disregarded the student’s lived bodies when I was teaching music.
We saw how Frederick Winslow Taylor (with help from Muybridge and the Gilbreths) developed a new discourse of objectification, management, control and efficiency. People’s bodies are objectified, broken into small bits, and controlled.
We listened to Borgmann talk about the way the technological environment changed the craftsman’s relationship to their work and to the to natural environment.
We have reached the point of polymorphic understanding. We can now begin to clearly recognize two very distinct educational experiences contrasted to each other–in competition with each other.
The problem with polymorphic understanding is that once you really know both sides, you can never unlearn enough to only see one side again. (I will talk more about polymorphic understanding later). But in very simple terms, once you know the necker cube can be viewed in two ways, you can’t ‘unknow’ that.
Today’s Response Questions
Herein lies one of our most difficult challenges. If we know two sides, what do we do when others say that there is only one right way to approach things? We can use the necker cube as our example. When we first see the cube we might see it as if we are looking down on the cube (with A out front and B to the back). We can shift our perspective so that we look at the cube from the bottom. B comes to the front and A moves to the back. Once we know this, how would we respond when someone says to us that there is only one way to view the necker cube? Likewise, what do we say to other educators when they say that the official theory of learning is the right way? What do we do when we are told to do things that clearly objectifies our students or ourselves? What do we do when we begin to read research and the language is clearly couched in the language of efficiency and scientific management? How do we respond when we hear about education “systems,” “effective instruction,” “monitoring,” “grading”? What do we do when we are expected to adopt practices that diminish the bodily experience?
At one time I could have said that my role as a teacher was to ensure students met particular standards. However, with the recognition that many of these standards or subsequent objectives lead to ‘bodiless’ understandings, am I compelled to answer differently? Using my earlier technology example, while at one time I was a cheerleader for technology-use, I can no longer say that children and novices should begin their understandings using two dimensional screens. At least not in good faith. When we fully appreciate the role our bodies play in understanding, are we stepping into the world of morality and wisdom?
Does this have implications for how we communicate with our colleagues, and our administrators? Does it change the way we look at standards, and curriculum? What happens when everything we consider begins to include the body.
My question is this: I leave you an open question. What do you think of all this? For example, what do we do? How do we deal with this? Can you give any specific examples that you have experienced or are now likely to experience? Really, I would just like to hear your perspective on all of this.
On the surface this question probably seems rather simple. I don’t think it is. It believe it runs to the very core of who we are as teachers.
If you would, please include this response with your second set of responses sometime during the week of Wednesday, May 20th. Thanks.
I hope you enjoyed today’s lecture. And I hope you feel as though you are able to see some of the underlying influences on our schooling practices.
Have a great rest of your day!
Just for your own interest, for those of you who can’t get enough Taylor, Muybridge, or Gilbrith.
Clockwork (Full Video: 25:00)
Taylor, Muybridge, Gilbrith,