So here we in week six of our ED 615, Critical Inquiry into Foundational Narratives class.
Last week we looked into the language of factories. We gave some consideration as to how ideas from the industrial revolution as well as factory and business management in the early 20th century influenced the design of schooling. We only have time to examine these ideas superficially in this class. But if this is something that interests you there is a book written by Raymond Callahan called Education and the Cult of Efficiency: A Study of The Social Forces that Have Shaped the Administration of the Public Schools. In this book you can find specific examples of how factory and industrial language and thinking were deliberately adopted and incorporated into the operation of schools.
Anyway, let’s continue our consideration of narratives. Let’s talk scientific management, measurement, objectification and efficiency. Once these narratives are clearly in view, it will become increasingly evident where our schooling ideas of measurement, task management, and efficiency come from.
It will also become increasingly evident that this unwarranted belief in doing more, faster, comes from a narrative that thinks of students as either workers, or considers students to be products (both contributing to the official theory).
It should become increasingly evident why we have schools with different management levels, from Superintendent down to district specialists, to building administrators, to teacher, to teacher assistants. Not only are these based on the language of industry, but they are also designed to function in the manner of business and industry.
It should become increasingly evident why Gatto would make the criticisms that he does. He is looking at this “scientifically managed, industry oriented” processes and concedes that this is what he is expected to do as a teacher.
It should become increasingly evident why Kohn would speak out against such things as grades and motivations when those mechanisms come from a narrative that has nothing to do with actual learning.
It should become increasingly evident that even though we have wonderful expectations and beliefs in what schooling should look like and what students should be able to achieve, when we begin to recognize the institutional narratives in place, we can begin to forgive ourselves and our students for some of the shortcomings that are conferred upon us by the system.
I could go on, but let us examine more closely the narratives that follow.
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 features 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?
Have you ever found yourself teaching the ‘expected’ curricular material and feeling as though you cannot keep up with the pace and do an adequate job?
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.
The First: Gilbreth’s Efficiency and Time Motion Study
At the beginning 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 give shape to our schooling narratives.
Frank Bunker Gilbreth (1868-1924). Original Films (motion study)
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 educational 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.
The Easier Way (1946)
Ever wonder why educational researchers in universities spend their time trying to come up with “better” teaching methods? Every wonder how many 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?
This is the big one — Don’t miss the following on Scientific Management!
Here is the important 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 targeted.
As I said, this is only some 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 — remember Gatto’s talk of 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.
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 history lesson for the week.
Something to think about, just in case you are ever asked: Who had the most influence in American education? You probably always thought it was people like Gardener and his seven (nine) intelligences, or John Dewey and his thoughts on progressive education. Perhaps Frederick Winslow Taylor would fall into the ranks of the most influential.
I suppose whoever controls the narratives have the influence.
It might seem a bit more obvious now 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. Tasks don’t ensure understanding, do they? How many tasks have we all successfully completed with little resulting understanding?
And, what if people don’t want to do the tasks? Rewards of course. Only one problem:
Rewards don’t work. Forget about your behavioristic tactics. Let’s rethink motivation!
And, of course, if we didn’t have students having to comply with tasks, 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. . . .”
Sounds a bit like Alfie Kohn.
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.
Today’s Response Questions
You might notice that Smith doesn’t say too much about scientific management specifically, though he does fleetingly mention efficiency. And, we can certainly see programmatic instruction being shaped by this sort of thinking. In addition, at the end of last week’s lecture we looked at three innovative school environments. I think it would be fair to say that ‘efficiency’ was not a driving factor.
For today’s response, would you please provide me with a couple of short paragraphs on how you perceive the aforementioned narratives influencing our public schooling institutions?
When you are finished today’s response, please send me your second set of responses from lectures 3 – 6. Thanks!
I hope you enjoyed today’s lecture. And I hope you feel as though you are able to see some more of the underlying narratives that found 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.
Taylor, Muybridge, Gilbrith,