Willamette Promise Week Four

Chapter Nine Scientific Management


In the last chapter we looked into the language and procedures 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. With all of those procedures, beliefs and metaphors in place, we could say that schools create factory-like bodies, or bodies in the image of factory metaphors.

Let’s continue our consideration of rationality and factory influence but let us deepen our understanding by seeing where some of these influences derived. We will consider something called scientific management and consider the effects of scientific management, measurement, objectification and efficiency on the school body.

Scientific management, measurement, objectification and efficiency create school narratives. These narratives affect the way with think of schools and education. 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 should also 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, to students. Not only are divisions and representations based on the language of business and industry, but they are also designed to function in the manner of business and industry.

By the end of this chapter it should become increasingly evident why we expect students and teachers to do particular tasks and activities, why we measure these tasks and activities, and why we assess students the way we do.

Our story continues with the influence of photography, time and measurement.

Photography, Time, and Measurement

A snapshot of my student’s ability — snippets of experience

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.

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.

Anyway, let’s piece some of this together.


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.

It is important to imagine what these images meant at that time. We are so familiar with moving pictures (video) that we think nothing of it. But imagine you had never experienced imagery like this before. Think of how it would seem to reveal something significant about the world around us.

Let’s pull in important figure here. His name is Eadweard Muybridge.

Eadweard Muybridge


Notice the screen (grid) behind the images



Measure: Definition:

a : the dimensions, capacity, or amount of something ascertained by measuring

b (1) : a standard or unit of measurement — see weights and measures table

(2) : a system of standard units of measure

  • metric measure


Response Questions Chapter Nine

1. What was the purpose of having a grid behind the moving animals in some of the previous clips?

2. Can you think of an example where we have similar sorts of grids in school? They won’t be on a wall? They might be hidden?


Measurement is a foundation of schooling.

Why measure?

Let’s change the focus:

There is a phrase in schooling discourse that you will hear often when you become a teacher. It is “effective and efficient.” You will hear such phrases as, “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 schooling practices? 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?


You know:



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?


Efficiency: The American Buzz Word

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.” Churches were getting on the efficiency band wagon. Homemakers were urged to make the kitchen more efficient. What we now take for granted (efficiency) at one time seemed like quite an innovation in thinking.

Here is a little snippet you might enjoy.

Efficiency and Scientific Management


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.


3. Why do you think people were so enamoured with the idea of 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 had an enormous effect on how our schools were designed and operationalized. 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 incorporate scientific management into all aspects of life in an attempt to make everything efficient. Schools were especially targeted.

As I said, this is only some selections from Taylor’s book.

After reading through this we will enjoy the video clips of Frederick Taylor and his development of the principles of scientific Management.


The Principles of Scientific Management
by Frederick Winslow Taylor

(boldface mine for emphasis)

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

“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; . . . 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

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

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.

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.

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. T

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.

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


Do you see some of the connections between what we do in schools and the principles laid down by Taylor?

When you get a chance, ask your teacher about the expectations behind lesson planning. Then re-read this passage.

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.

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?


Response Question Set Two continued

4. What is the connection between the Gilbreth’s work and Eadweard Muybridge’s photography?

5. What were the Gilbreths trying to figure out?

6. Imagine you are talking to a fifth grade student. Explain scientific management? 

7. What do you believe could be five of the most important direct influences on schools from what Frederick Taylor wrote in  Principles of Scientific Management or from what you watched in the two preceding video clips on Frederick Taylor?


Efficiency and the Social Efficiency Movement

Can we connect these ideas of industry and efficiency to schooling? If we had time I would have selected a book called The Cult of Educational Efficiency for our class reading–something worth reading if you have an interest in deepening your understanding of how the concept of efficiency has shaped our schooling practices. Even though we aren’t reading that text for class, let me at least point to some aspects of how efficiency has historically impacted our thinking. Let me share with you a part of a paper written by Howard Lee. This is from his paper called Outcomes-based Education and the Cult of Educational Efficiency: Using curriculum and assessment reforms to drive educational policy and practice. He writes: The social efficiency movement

Recent attempts to reform state education systems alone the lines of identifying and describing in considerable detail the expected outcomes of schooling, and then holding teachers and administrators accountable for the quality of students’ work, mirror closely the efficiency movement ideals of the early twentieth century. The brainchild of Frederick Winslow Taylor, these ideals originated in the United States of America in 1911 and flourished until the early 1930s, only to be reborn in the United Kingdom and Australia in the late 1980s, and in New Zealand in the early 1990s.

Outlining his views on industrial efficiency in his seminal work, Principles of Scientific Management (1911), Taylor immediately became a highly sought after management consultant to numerous American industrialists who were struggling to find ways in which to extract maximum efficiency (profit) from their factories and workers. The key to understanding scientific management, he concluded, lay in adopting a rigorous time-and-motion analysis of every movement of expert workers, breaking complex tasks down into their most elementary components, describing the exact specifications of each task to be performed, and then ordering the precise elements of those tasks so as to bring all employers’ levels of performance up to the required standard by eliminating wasted motion (Taylor, 1911).

Not surprisingly, educators were quick to recognize parallels between Taylor’s industrial management principles and their application to the governance of American public schools. Moreover, Taylor’s fondness of certainty, high-level specificity, precision, sequence and regulation in American industrial reform provided school administrators with an ostensibly scientific method for introducing much needed efficiencies into schools. Political and educational conservatives soon embraced the metaphors, procedures, and performance standards drawn from the scientific management movement as the principal means by which to bureaucratese American education (Tyack, 1974).

Educational efficiency and the ‘scientific’ curriculum

At the forefront of the doctrine of educational efficiency in America were three leading figures: Joseph Rice, Franklin Bobbitt, and Ellwood Cubberly. Rice, formerly a medical doctor, became highly regarded for his pioneering survey-based research into students’ reading and arithmetic achievements throughout the 1890s (Engelhart & Thomas, 1966). Having become increasingly disillusioned with the lack of rigor and the absence of standards and efficiency in the school curriculum Rice published a scathing critique of American education in 1912 entitled, significantly, Scientific Management in Education, in which he claimed that young people need only to know what was immediately useful in order to prepare them specifically and directly for their future occupational roles in society.

Turning his attention to the education system, Rice claimed that American schooling was in an abysmal state because administrators knew little about what was happening in the nations’ classrooms and because the quality and performance of its teachers was poor. Rice’s solution was simple and unequivocal: introduce a ‘scientific system of pedagogical management’ (Rice, 1912, p. xiv) wherein classroom achievement standards were specified in advance and teacher competence (efficiency) measured in relation to the number of students who met those clearly defined standards (pp. xiv, xvi). The results of one school could then be compared with others in order to establish an index of relative school efficiency.

It is interesting to think that some guy who was particularly concerned about waste and efficiency had such an impact on how we think of schooling now.

Writing at about the same time as Rice, Franklin Bobbitt, from the Department of Education at the University of Chicago, was similarly attracted to the newly emerging educational efficiency movement and its concomitant goal of settling social turmoil, cementing social division, and promoting greater cohesion and stability in America. Bobbitt soon came to be recognized at the key spokesperson for the new breed of efficiency-minded educator when he identified curricular reform as the most potent instrument for achieving the requisite social (and economic) efficiency. Outlining his factory-school metaphor in “The Elimination of Waste in Education,” published in 1912, Bobbitt declared that the schools’ task was to ‘work up the raw material into that finished product . . . [by] educating the individual according to his capabilities’ (Bobbitt, 1912, p. 269). Educational inefficiency and wastage, he concluded, would be eliminated through a carefully selected and differentiated curriculum . . . .

Again, someone in a position to make judgements on others, a man with an eye to efficiency, shapes our thinking. Of course it helps when you can get the industrial elite to buy into the idea.

The attractiveness of Bobbitt’s utilitarian curriculum was not lost on leading American industrialists who believed that it would better prepare school leavers to enter the workforce while at the same time addressing the serious shortage of skilled labour caused by the onset of involvement in World War 1 and the halting of immigration between 1915 and 1920 (Callahan, 1962, Cremin, 1962, Katz, 1968). From this point on, American schools were inextricably positioned as the incubators for major economic, industrial occupational and social transformation.

Incubators for economic, industrial and social transformation?

Yes, Incubators for economic, industrial and social transformation.

Now, right before our eyes, let’s see how curriculum was designed, broken down into discrete bits and pieces. Think of objectification as you read this:

Capitalizing upon America’s infatuation with curriculum theory as the guarantor of social efficiency, Bobbitt published his state-of-the-art text, The Curriculum, in 1918. The appeal of Bobbitt’s theory lay in its simplicity for it likened curriculum planning to a series of discrete steps, each of which entailed specifying ‘numerous, definite, and particularised’ curricular objectives and outcomes (Bobbitt, 1918, p. 42). In keeping with Taylor’s scientific description of the efficient factory worker, Bobbitt was adamant that scientific analysis alone would reveal what society required of its schools. Such analysis would allow schools to abandon useless (symbolic) curriculum activities in favour of what was directly relevant to the needs of modern American industry.

Now, it always helps if you can find an ally in a university. How about a dean of education? Perhaps one who has been doing cost-benefit analyses. Especially one who has really adopted the factory metaphor when thinking about educating children.

Rice and Bobbitt found a strong ally in Elwood Cubberly, Stanford University’s Foundation Dean of Education. Having been hired by numerous school boards to undertake cost-benefit analyses to ascertain the overall quality of education, Cubberly was unswerving in his view that American Schools were:

factories in which raw products (children) are to be shaped and fashioned into products to meet various demands in life. The specifications for manufacturing come from the demands of the twentieth century civilization, and it is the business of the school to build its pupils according to the specifications laid down. This demands good tools, specialized machinery, continuous measurement of production to see if it is according to specifications, the elimination of waste in manufacture, and a large variety of outputs (Cubberly, 1916, pp. 337 – 338, quoted in Callahan, 1962, p. 97)

Embedded in Cubberly’s summary of social efficiency theory was the central cannon of the scientific curriculum-makers — specificity and predictability in curriculum construction and delivery. By specifying precise and definitive curricular objectives in advance of actual classroom instruction, and then requiring the nation’s teachers to deliver that curriculum to all children, a standardized teacher-proof curriculum was born.

We should repeat that last sentence, just so that we can high-light some of the key language elements that shape thinking: “By specifying precise and definitive curricular objectives in advance of actual classroom instruction, and then requiring the nation’s teachers to deliver that curriculum to all children, a standardized teacher-proof curriculum was born.”

This mechanization, I am sure, would be appealing to some. But why?

Such mechanized and regulated teaching and learning had obvious appeal to school administrators who had long sought unequivocal evidence of the efficiency of American teachers.

Ah, yes, evidence of efficiency. What else?

The great advantage of scientific curriculum reform, Bobbitt had body claimed in 1913, was that by insisting upon definitive outputs (standards) for teachers, administrators could then ‘tell at a glance which teachers are strong and which ones are weak . . . (and) enable the management to instantly overcome one of its most troublesome problems in schools — that of getting rid of inefficient teachers’ (Callahan, 1962, p. 79).

What does this do to teachers?

Teachers were now cast in the mold of being rule-bound, results-driven technicians. With scientific curriculum making so hegemonically embedded in contemporary educational theory, no thought had been given to inviting teachers as co-participants to assist in framing and revising the very curriculum that they were charged with implementing. Administrators, it seems, were not yet willing to concede that the classroom experiences of professional teachers needed to be factored into ongoing curriculum planning and reform.

That’s gives us some more understanding of why we do the things we do in schools based on ideas of scientific management and efficiency.


Thus far in our story we have seen some of the contextual effects of efficiency as these ‘efficiency-based’ aspects have played out in the creation and working of the factory. We have also seen how the belief in efficiency made its way into peoples’ everyday life.

Let me give you just a few more examples of how this belief in, and adherence to, efficiency made its way into teaching and schooling practices.

From Factory to Teacher Training Institutions

There was a time, in the late 1800s and the early 1900s when teacher training schools were emerging. In fact, Western Oregon University was formally a Normal School — that is a teacher training institution — in 1882. Of course teacher training institutions used textbooks. And the textbooks were written by authors and so-called educational experts who were living in a context that was being influenced by aspects of efficiency as well as business. Let me pull out a few passages from a very influential textbook of the time. It is called Classroom Management: Its Principles and Technique, by William Chandler Bagley. These passages will provide you with a taste of the efficiency / business discourse that was rife at the time.

Imagine for a moment that you are a student being trained to become a teacher in a teacher training school. You read in your textbook: 

The “business” concept on of the school must be viewed in this perspective of means and ends. The school resembles a factory in that its duty lies in turning a certain raw material into a certain desired product. It differs from a factory in that it deals with living and active, not with dead and inert, materials. Because of this vital factor, the material with which the school deals is influenced by all the forces of the environment, and not alone by those that are consciously designed to mold it to the desired form. Some of these forces — those of the home and of the street, for example — are largely beyond the pale of the school’s influence. There are, however, certain activities of the school itself which exert a profound influence over the pupils life, and yet which are not generally recognized by teachers as vital elements in the educative process. School studies are supposed to “educate”; the personality of the teacher is recognized as an influencing factor; and the notion is slowly growing that the physical surroundings of the pupil — the buildings, the walls of the rooms, the hallways, the yards — exert a formative influence that cannot be neglected. But even those who will agree with all of this sometimes fail to appreciate the fact that, in such details as passing books and writing materials, passing to and from the blackboard, getting wraps, preserving silence and good order, an educative influence is being exerted that may equal in value the influence of lessons and recitations. This, then, is the factor that makes school management so different from the management of other business institutions. The very norms that school management adopts to make the lessons and the recitations effective are, in themselves, vital factors in the educative process. pp. 4-5

Another instance : Punctuality and regularity of attendance are essential if the school is to be operated with a minimum of waste. From the narrow point of view, classroom management fulfills its function in this regard when all pupils attend regularly and punctually upon all the sessions of the school. From the narrow point of view, such a result would represent the acme of efficiency for classroom management; p. 6

In general, the aim of the school may be formulated as social efficiency. Whatever the school undertakes to accomplish must be judged in the light of this standard. Not only must the materials of instruction be subjected to this test, but the methods of instruction must not exert an unsocial influence; and, what is especially important in the present connection, the schemes and devices of

classroom management must meet satisfactorily the same requirements.  The test of the ultimate aim must be applied at every point; otherwise the work of the school will lack system and harmony, and adequate results will be secured only through the operation of the law of chance. pp. 7-8

Regarding Routine and Habit

System and organization are the universal solvents of the problem of waste. p. 10

Regarding Automatization:

One begins a process with every intent to persevere, but the desire for change and variety, the instinctive dislike for continuous effort, frequently prevents attentive repetition in sufficient amount to insure the functioning of the process as habit. Unless the process reaches the stage of automatism, all of the initial repetitions represent time and energy practically thrown away. That is, if one starts out valiantly to establish a habit, carrying on the repetitions for some time, but becoming discouraged before automatism is reached, practically all of the effort that has been given to the preliminary stages is absolutely wasted. The stages preceding the final repetition which induces automatism are necessary, it is true, but, taken alone, they are quite without value. In school work, a vast amount of time is wasted by leaving processes at the “halfway house” between focalization and automatism. This is true both in the work of instruction (the mechanics of reading and spelling, the automatization of the addition and multiplication tables, etc.) and in details of school management. p. 18

Regarding efficiency of movement:

The Passing of Lines. For the expert observer, there is probably no detail of school management that indicates more clearly the efficiency or inefficiency of the teacher than the manner in which the lines pass to and from the room. Are the pupils quiet and orderly in line? Do they move energetically (even though slowly) or do they “shuffle” along and crowd and stumble? Whether pupils should be required to “keep step” is a mooted question, but no very cogent arguments are advanced against this procedure, and it adds much to the ease and facility with which the lines pass. In a “first-class” school the lines should pass quietly and in an orderly manner when they are not supervised ; but orderly lines that are supervised are greatly to be preferred over disorderly lines that are unsupervised. p. 37

Regarding training:

Neatness of Written Work and of Blackboard Work. One of the most accurate indices of a teacher’s efficiency is the character of the papers and of the blackboard work that his pupils produce. These matters  may not appear, at first thought, to be of profound importance, and it is true that their significance  may in certain instances be overestimated. Nevertheless scientific investigation indicates that accuracy in handwriting varies directly as general school intelligence; in general, the better the handwriting— that is, the more accurate — the higher the mental attainments of the pupils. In any case, the ability to train pupils to produce accurate written work is a fairly good index of the teacher’s general capacity in habit-building. p. 47

Regarding ‘time’ and scheduling:

To secure a maximal degree of efficiency in its work the school must make the most effective use of the time at its disposal. This is a complex problem, involving the adjustment of several determining factors. Among these the following require detailed consideration: (a) the length of the school year, (b) the length of the school day, (c) the time devoted to recesses and intermissions, (d) the subjects required, (e) the relative importance of these subjects at different levels of the child’s development, (f) the relation of different types, of subject-matter to fatigue, (g) the general factors of fatigue, and the significance of these factors to recesses, rest-periods, etc., (h) the time devoted to general exercises of all kinds, (i) the number of pupils and the number of separate classes for which each teacher must be responsible. As in the preceding discussions, these factors will be treated in their relation to the classroom teacher rather than in their broader significance to the duties of the principal, the superintendent, or the school board, p. 50

Regarding punctuality:

Aside from those delinquencies in punctuality that are due to conditions in the child’s home, and which should be treated as similar delinquencies in attendance are treated, the greatest trouble arises from the “naturally” dilatory child. In young children this is often due to an inadequate “time sense” (more properly “time judgment”). This is usually a result of arrested development. The judgment of time intervals is not a native gift, but an acquisition, and the only way for the young child to acquire it is through the pleasure-pain economy. For the habitually tardy pupil there is probably no remedy so effective in stimulating time judgment as a judicious use of corporal punishment, provided, of course, that the tardiness is due entirely to the pupil’s carelessness.

Regarding the influence of the business world:

Habits of punctuality  may be fortified and generalized by concrete instruction on their practical value in the social and business world. The time allotted to instruction in “morals and manners” or “ethics” (which is so commonly given to something else) might profitably be used in part for this purpose. This is a field in which a little “preaching”  may perhaps be more than commonly effective, for the alert, competent, “hustling” business man is the popular hero of the day, and punctuality is one of his chief virtues. Anecdotes drawn from business life, backed up by rigorous insistence on punctuality in school life, will do  much toward building up an active and effective ideal of punctuality among the pupils. p. 78

Regarding corporeal punishment:

The Fundamental Principles.  . . . it is clear that the efficiency of a penalty in securing the repression of undesirable activities will depend upon three factors: (i) the degree of pain, discomfort, or disagreeableness which the penalty involves; a penalty from which the “sting” has been carefully extracted has lost thereby its chief virtue as a penalty ; (2) the closeness with which it is associated with the undesirable impulse; a penalty that is not associated explicitly and directly with an undesirable act may, by chance, become associated with a desirable response : thus if the pain of chastisement, for example, is associated with school life in general instead of with some forbidden activity, school will become distasteful and will be avoided whenever possible; (3) its freedom from painful consequences in excess of those needed to inhibit the undesirable impulse ; a penalty that is not sufficiently severe is unjust to the mass; a penalty which is unnecessarily severe is unjust to the individual ; a penalty which is effective in a given instance and yet which lingers and rankles in the pupil’s mind may, in the last analysis, work more injury than good. pp. 113-14

Regarding grades:

In whatever class these incentives are to be placed, however, every teacher (and every pupil) will testify as to their efficiency in stimulating effort.

Regarding praise:

The efficiency of praise and commendation in stimulating effort cannot be doubted. Through all stages of education these incentives are probably among the most potent. Their maximal efficiency is, however, strictly conditioned by some very important principles, p. 181

Regarding effectiveness:

The important principle in school practice is this: Effective ideals derive the greater part of their power from the specific habits that have been developed during the formative period of life. The ideal of duty grows out of the specific habits of obedience, the ideal of work out of the specific habits of industry, and so on. These habits may be initiated by the application of the various incentives named above, and then, in the later periods of the pupil’s school life, the habits should, in turn, be generalized on the basis of ideals p. 186 – 87

Regarding efficiency:

The Study Lesson. The application of the pupils in their period of seat work tests the efficiency of the assignment. One of the surest indices of a teacher’s ability is the diligence of the study class. Indeed, the expert and experienced supervisor will always look first at the study class. If these pupils are working vigorously and with evident efficiency, he turns his attention to the class that is reciting. The prime test of a teacher is not the manner in which he conducts a recitation, but the growth that his pupils make in ability to work efficiently without supervision. p. 206

The Recitation Lesson. The work of the recitation should test both the efficiency of the study period and the efficiency of the assignment. In order to be maximally effective, it should be dominated by this fundamental precept : Hold the pupil rigidly responsible in the recitation for whatever tasks were set for him in the assignment. Unless this principle is adhered to strictly, the most skillful assignments and the most artful devices for the study period will be a waste of time and energy. pp. 210-11

Taking either social efficiency or “moral character” as the ultimate end of education (and, from the practical standpoint, the two may be considered as synonymous), it is clear that the product of the school must fulfill some fairly definite and tangible conditions if his education is to be adjudged successful. p. 226

Regarding standards and record keeping:

One must be certain that one’s pupils are progressing toward the desired end. If the teacher has the standard well in mind, he will correct the pupils who assume inadequate positions. But if habit-building is to be effective, it is manifest that these corrections must become fewer and fewer in number as practice continues. It is well, therefore, to keep a simple record of the number of pupils that need correction each day, and of the number of times each day that any particular pupil requires correction. This record need not involve any very elaborate bookkeeping. A check mark  may be made on a pad whenever a correction is made, and the names of the more troublesome cases can also be written upon this pad and checked against. This plan is effective in that it keeps the teacher informed as to the efficiency of his efforts. If the habits are not being formed, — if corrections seemingly have no effect, — it is obvious that other methods must be employed. pp. 230-31

Regarding obedience:

The problem of the relation of the classroom teacher to his superior officers should be solved by an attitude of obedience to constituted authority. This is very far from saying that the teacher should adopt an attitude of servility; intelligent loyalty is the better term to employ. The situation is entirely analogous to that in any other organization or system, — the army, the navy, governmental departments, great business enterprises (or small business enterprises, for that matter). pp. 265 – 266



So there we have it. I think we can fairly say that we have developed a depth and breadth of understanding as far as the foundations of efficiency and scientific management. We can see how ‘time’ and measurement played out as background context modalities in the establishment of efficiency and scientific management. We can also see how assembly-line factory models and business metaphors influenced society and teacher training. Furthermore, we can get a sense as to how factory models might have influenced the bodily pursuit of understanding.


Chapter Ten: Time, Efficiency

In our last chapter, we learned that Scientific Management and Efficiency are both influenced by mechanical time (clock time). So it shouldn’t surprise us that the background of any organization or institution that adopts scientific management and efficiency practices will ‘time’ as an influential causal modality.

Once mechanical time is incorporated into the school institution’s thinking and practice, there are a number of derivative effects that occur. For example, schedules, timed goals and time methods, etc.

A focus on mechanical time changes the way we experience the world around us. Think of something you love to do. It might be playing or listening to music, craft work, reading novels, watching great movies on Netflix or at the cinema, painting, or playing sports. Or imagine you are on vacation, with absolutely no obligations. That’s a nice thought isn’t it. 

Consider now how you can completely forget about time when you are in the midst of doing what you love. We can be so involved in a project that “time” (clock time) seems to recede into the background. We experience durations, not time. We flow from one state to another. Our experiences flow from one to the next. We feel our natural bodily rhythms that are influenced by interest or external events. Durations feel short when we are are highly engaged, and yet can feel like they drag out when we are anticipating something. Think of the child having to endure a long car ride — the duration for the child feels much longer than the adult driving. Durations feel like they speed up or slow down. Our continuous flow is not demarcated with discrete beginnings, ends, or interruptions. Our durations are not being measured.

Clock time is different from duration. Clock time is a construct based on an external time mechanism. Clock (time) mechanisms are tools of rationality. and a sensitivity to discrete sequenced uniform units. Clock time superimposes spatial constructs on our lived durations distorting our lived duration by forcing us into mechanistic actions.

Consider how any activity will be influenced by superimposing clock time on the durations we experience naturally.  As soon as we objectify our activities by measuring them and imposing time constraints, the purpose will have to take into account these forces (these constraints). For example, imagine you want to enjoy an afternoon shopping for clothes. You have no deadlines, nowhere you have to be at any particular time. Now, impose clock time on your shopping afternoon. You will monitor the time you are at any particular store and the duration you are there. You will find that you have to divide up the lengths of time spent so that you can ensure that you are able to get to all the different shops you wanted to. When you try on a piece of clothing, you become sensitive to the time. Someone is in the change room and they are taking too long. There are pressures imposed because you are acting in line with the sequenced of the mechanical time.

Think also of how clock time changes our sensory experiences. Our natural bodily rhythms begin to change to accommodate the mechanical structure. Our rhythms become standardized, bound to the regularities of the discrete time units. We begin to feel like the durations are no longer our own, but rather forced into an external format. Our rhythms become public, shared with other people following the same schedule (store closes at 6:00–everyone out). Our rhythms become mechanical, no longer flowing with our natural experiences of durations.

I have added the sensory experiences of rhythm to our Sensory Frame.



Response Questions Chapter Ten

1. What are some of the effects we might experience when we incorporate mechanical time into our lives?


The foundation of clock time in schooling

Time pieces are tools of rationality. They impose an external order of their own design on our lived experience.

Schooling has been designed with clock time as a foundational element. Mechanical time has become a foundation of modern schooling.


Spatial Effects

It would seem that our schedules would help us in our pursuit of learning. And indeed, in some ways they do — but that is only part of the narrative. What do I mean by a spatial understanding of time? Well, interestingly, a spatial representation of time is something that we represent visually. And when we represent something visually we experience it differently than we might a non-visual representation. The schedule arrives as a visual orientation of time. We begin to think of the time line. We visually perceive time as if it were linear and that our activities should align to the linear line. When we visualize time, we can place events on a timeline. Each moment becomes a series of static states.

Let me give you another example. When you are doing one of your favorite hobbies, there are times you will find yourself not thinking about the passage of time. Of course there are times when you might think to yourself, ‘Oh, I only have 10 more minutes until I have to start preparing dinner,” and then you become aware of time in a way that is obvious. But when you are enjoying the moment and not observing the moment, your sense of time is something more akin to being lost in a song.


Our experiences can be represented visually. Schedules are made. Schedules are blocked. Times are recorded.

What does this emphasis on timing do to our experience? What does it do to our bodies? How do our bodies experience this visually oriented representation of time?

What happens to our experiences when we take something like a train schedule and apply that to our experiences?

(Click on image for larger size).

Motion is represented in linear, static frames, and thus remembered in this abstracted form.

Think back once again to your favorite hobby. What would disrupting your activity by a time schedule do to your experience?

Imagine you are reading your favorite novel. Now imagine that there is an expectation that you read 100 words every 20 seconds. And, every 20 seconds a timer went off indicating that 20 seconds just went by so that you could keep on track.

Imagine you were having a relaxing game of golf, or spending some time on the beach with friends. And, every 10 minutes a timer reminded you that you only had a certain amount of time left to enjoy your event.




Timed Bodies

Schooled bodies are timed bodies.

In schools we are timed bodies. We become highly sensitized to time. Time can become our focus. Students are expected to attend school a certain number of days a year. Classes are built on a time schedule with classes having specific duration. Tests are timed. Bathroom breaks are timed. Arithmetic drills are timed. Recesses are timed. Lessons are timed.

Natural durations are disrupted, ruptured. And we feel that disruption physically. Our natural states of motion are disrupted. Continuity of action gives way to discrete acts. Acts that are ready for review and abstracted from experience.


The following short video will give you a bit of a background on the history of timing devices. As you watch, ask yourself how mechanization breaks up time into discrete bits.


A Briefer History of Time: How technology changes us in unexpected ways


Now that you have a bit of an understanding of the mechanical devices, let’s have a look at time more deeply by watching the following documentary from the series How We Go To Now. You will notice some questions below.

An understanding of our representation of time will give you insights into our schooling practices. Even though Steven Johnson won’t state specifically those connections to school, they will soon become very obvious to you. It will help you understand schooling practices in very sophisticated ways.

Please note: You will be accessing WOU’s Films On Demand when clicking the link or image below. You will have to sign in using your WOU login and password.

Time: How We Got to Now with Steven Johnson Full Video



2. (Starting at 7:30 minutes in the documentary) :  What do Galileo and the alter lamp (pendulum) have to do with how we now experience time?

3. (12:00): What did Maritime Navigation have to do with the way we structure our experience of time?

4. (17:00): What did clocks mean for health care?

5. (18:00) How did the clock contribute to the industrial revolution?

6. At (28:15) Steven Johnson says:

Thanks to a crazy idea, a transformation in how we experience time now takes place. With more and more people carrying watches, we start to synchronize our actions. Before wide access to time-keepers, battles were started by the unreliable “boom” of a cannon. The Civil War battle of Vicksburg in 1863 is the first ever initiated by the synchronization of watches. This forever changes the way we fight.

Watch ownerships spurs an obsession with punctuality. It becomes a social virtue to keep good time, and people buy watches for their children to enhance their chances in life. Cookbooks evolve from never using time references to now offering recipes which timed instructions. Team sports start to form national leagues, which run on much stricter schedules, allowing masses of people to attend at a fixed hour.

Time gives us the power to organize and improve the efficiency of our lives, but there’s a deep irony here because the more we start to own our own time, the more time starts to own us. We can finely tune our schedules, but we’re constantly worrying about them and getting anxious about being late. So not only do watches liberate us, but they also start to enslave us.

So, question, how did we get to a global system of standardized time? Allen was largely responsible for the change in 1881.


Two threads to keep in mind as we move forward. First, the new emphasis on the division of time played a role in the development of the industrial revolution — something that will have a enormous impact on the way we understanding schooling. Second, the emphasis on scheduling and the way schedules were visually constructed influenced the structure of schooling.


7. List 10 ways that our current perception of ‘time’ influences present day schooling. This might include the structure or organization of schooling, the way curriculum or lessons are organized, the way teachers teach, the way students are expected to learn, etc..



Coffee Break Questions


Coffee Break Three

You know, I’m thinking back to the cup example and how the three frames would seem to demonstrate that it would be difficult to have any one, single definition of anything.

You know, there was a time when a number of philosophers got together because of that very concern. They didn’t believe that things have a narrow, defining, set of characteristics, or that things have a defining essence, or even one way of being defined. They were the ordinary language philosophers. And the impetus of much of their thinking came from the writings and philosophical work of a man by the name of Ludwig Wittgenstein.

When we think of ordinary language philosophers, we can imagine philosophers who honor, or respect, or take into account, the way we use language in ordinary experiences—like the cup. When you think about it, we have many different sorts of contexts, or experiences, with each thing we encounter. And just as you suggest, by looking at the three different cup frames, the meaning of the cup varies depending on the way we use the cup and the context in which we find ourselves with the cup.

The cup means something different if we are measuring out pancake powder, or drawing punch from a punch bowl, or drinking tea, etc. In our regular ordinary everyday experiences, as we are enveloped in our worldly engagements, we do not normally think of things so narrowly, as having a single essence.

A hammer, for example, isn’t one particular thing with a single essence. It is something we find ourselves using in many different contexts. And it means something different depending on the context. A hammer means one thing if I am crushing stone, or nailing shingles on a roof, or shaping metal, or repairing the hammer that hits the strings of a piano. In each context the purpose changes, the material changes, the meaning changes. Sometimes we find the hammer too heavy, or too light, or the handle too long.

We deal with things, and these things show themselves to us in meaningful ways depending on the context. Context confers meaning. And this flow from one meaning to another, from one context to another, is quite natural in our everyday dealing with hammers, or cups, or whatever artifact or process we are dealing with.

What does this mean for us in schools?

Schools lean toward essentialist thinking. Curriculum leans toward essentialist thinking. Testing leans toward essentialist thinking. We have touched on this now. These ideas will become increasingly evident as we move forward in our course as we talk about curriculum and testing. Needless to say, essentialist thinking, or the belief that things have an essence, or narrow defining qualities, has been a foundation of schooling.

I liked the word game. I did terrible remembering anything when I didn’t know what the words meant.

Yes, the way we experience words is important. Words activate neuronal cell assemblies. Without that activation, you do not re-experience lived experiences in such a way that you can perceive what is said, that you can understand what is being said, or that you would be able to make a memory.

Of course the implications here are significant. For example: A teacher can’t just say something to a student and expect that the student will understand, perceive, or remember what was said. We don’t transfer ideas into the heads of students. We perturb the students’ senses so that they activate neuronal cell assemblies and that activation is the way they perceive. Also, Many very intelligent students are discriminated against if they are not familiar with the vocabulary because without the vocabulary activating neurons, no experiences are re-lived. No meaning is perceived, no memories are made. This puts second language students at a great disadvantage.

It also puts students who might not have had the opportunities at home to have developed their vocabulary to the same extent as some of their peers at a great disadvantage too. Then, to make things worse, their lack of understanding or inability to form memories is seen as a deficit that is deemed to warrant failure. Language and vocabulary is important. But we have to understand the way that language and vocabulary play into, and facilitate our ability to experience academic settings in rich ways. We also have to understand the importance of reading and vocabulary development, so that students can perceive what is being talked about. To actually perceive. If you don’t know the word boldendra or mattan zanna, you don’t perceive anything.

You said facilitate our ability to experience academic settings. What do you mean by that?

There were some researchers who researched vocabulary development and came up with an easy way to organize our thinking around this. It was a three tiered framework, tiered as in levels. Three levels.

Tier One consisted of words that we typically use in oral language. We hear them on television, talking with friends and family, social media — the typical words we use in regular conversations. Everybody learns these words simply be peeing part of or community.

The second tier consists of words that we

find in written texts. These are words that describe ideas in more complex ways. Even children’s books will use vocabulary that deals with concepts that are described using words that tend to be a bit more specialized than the words we use when we are having our day to day conversations. Of course, if you are a reader, and you are talking to someone else who is well read, you will be more likely to incorporate more sophisticated vocabulary in your conversations.

The third tier consists of words that deal with specialized academic content — such as engineering, physics, medicine, or philosophy. But for us, and for our future students, if we can enrich our tier two vocabulary, the vocabulary we get from reading, we will be doing ourselves a big favor, going a long way to educating ourselves. That tier two vocabulary will help us develop a depth and breadth of understanding.

I guess the last thing we learned about was the development of time frameworks.

I think we’re developing a good understanding of the way that time mechanisms have influenced our perception and experience. Now you might be wondering if there is a connection here between language and time. And there is. If you incorporate concepts (words) into your regular language discourse, or narratives, as you know, that language will activate those neuronal cell assemblies and you will be moved by the language. Perhaps you have heard the phrase, give someone a hammer and everything becomes a nail. I know that is a bit of glib way to make this point, but the idea is that if you are someone who talks a lot about schedules, time, organization, and the sort, or are part of an environment where these organizations of time are paramount, and part of the narrative, you will start to act in such a way that represents or fulfills those ideas. In schools we find the imposition of mechanized time formats bearing down on our experiences. We notice time pressures influencing our thinking and our actions. These time constraints have an enormous impact on how we experience schooling environments.

Very cool. By the way, do you have the time?

Sure, it’s half past a freckle and quarter to a hair.



In our previous chapters we determined that being educated involved developing a depth and breadth of understanding. And if schools are concerned with educating, they must help students develop a depth and breadth of understanding.

To develop a depth and breadth of understanding we have to wire together many different neuronal cell assemblies. These cell assemblies help us ‘re-experience’ previously experienced events. To wire together enough neuronal cell assemblies to understand the cinnamon bun, we have to activate a variety of different neuronal cell assemblies in such a way that they allow us to perceive the cinnamon bun. Depending on our past experience, we might be able to activate neuronal cell assemblies that make the four causal modalities meaningful — purpose, person, material and form. In addition, if we have had sufficient experiences with cinnamon bun we will activate neuronal cell assemblies that allow us to have sensory experiences (taste, proprioception, smell, etc.), and context experiences (such as bakery, kitchen, soccer field, classroom). If we can get these neuronal cell assemblies activating (vibrating) long enough, and often enough, our brain will physically wire the cell assemblies together. The more often we get the neurons activating, the stronger the connections will be and the better the memory (ability to re-live in the future) will be.

Notice I say vibrating long enough and often enough. It takes time for neuronal cell assemblies to wire together. It takes time, and repeated experiences, to strength the connections. Can you imagine what would happen though if we continually disrupted the cell assemblies from vibrating, or continually pointed out an unrelated set of experiences. For example, if you were trying to learn about cinnamon buns and somebody kept interrupting you and drew your attention toward a basset hound, you would wire together cinnamon buns and the person interrupting you about basset hounds. If someone continually interrupted your neuronal vibrations with, say, clock time, you would wire together cinnamon neuronal webs with someone continually telling you to look at the time.

If we are trying to understand how one develops a depth and breadth of understanding, it is worth considering how duration and time, as well as scientific management and efficiency, have influenced our schooling environments and practices.

We now have a depth and breadth of understanding regarding a number of the background influences that influence are school environments. These background influences, by constituting the background in which schools exist, shape the way we think about schools, and shape the very practices we follow.

By maintaining our own focus on ‘understanding’ and taking into consideration the biological experiences necessary for ‘understanding’ to thrive, we can begin to take advantage of modern schooling structures that enhance understanding while at the same time, eliminating schooling practices that diminish understanding.

In our next chapter we will take a closer look at schools and use what we have learned to better understand why schools and schooling practices are designed the way they are. We will also get a chance to look at a few schools that provide alternatives to what has become typical school logic.