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Friday, November 25, 2016

110. Frederick W. Taylor: The Underground History of American Education by John Taylor Gatto from archive.org

Chapter Nine 



The Cult of Scientific Management 

On the night of June 9, 1834, a group of prominent men "chiefly engaged in commerce" 
gathered privately in a Boston drawing room to discuss a scheme of universal schooling. 
Secretary of this meeting was William Ellery Channing, Horace Mann 's own minister as 
well as an international figure and the leading Unitarian of his day. The location of the 
meeting house is not entered in the minutes nor are the names of the assembly 's 
participants apart from Channing. Even though the literacy rate in Massachusetts was 98 
percent, and in neighboring Connecticut, 99.8 percent, the assembled businessmen 
agreed the present system of schooling allowed too much to depend upon chance. It 
encouraged more entrepreneurial exuberance than the social system could bear. 

— The minutes of this meeting are Appleton Papers collection, Massachusetts Historical 
Society 

Frederick W. Taylor 

The first man on record to perceive how much additional production could be extracted 
from close regulation of labor was Frederick Winslow Taylor, son of a wealthy 
Philadelphia lawyer. "What I demand of the worker," Taylor said, "is not to produce any 
longer by his own initiative, but to execute punctiliously the orders given down to their 
minutest details." 

The Taylors, a prominent Quaker family from Germantown, Pennsylvania, had taken 
Freddy to Europe for three years from 1869 to 1872, where he was attending an 
aristocratic German academy when von Moltke's Prussian blitzkrieg culminated in the 
French disaster at Sedan and a German Empire was finally proclaimed, ending a thousand 
years of disunion. Prussian schooling was the widely credited forge which made those 
miracles possible. The jubilation which spread through Germany underlined a 
presumably fatal difference between political systems which disciplined with ruthless 
efficiency, like Prussia's socialist paradise, and those devoted to whimsy and luxury, like 
France's. The lesson wasn't lost on little Fred. 

Near the conclusion of his Principles of Scientific Management '(1911), published thirty- 
nine years later, Taylor summarized the new managerial discipline as follows: 

1 . A regimen of science, not rule of thumb. 

2. An emphasis on harmony, not the discord of competition. 

3. An insistence on cooperation, not individualism. 

4. A fixation on maximum output. 

5. The development of each man to his greatest productivity. 



Taylor's biographers, Wrege and Greenwood, wrote: 

He left us a great legacy. Frederick Taylor advanced a total system of management, one 
which he built from pieces taken from numerous others whom he rarely would credit.... 
His genius lies in being a missionary. 

After Taylor's death in 1915, the Frederick W. Taylor Cooperators were formed to 
project his Scientific Management movement into the future. Frank Copley called Taylor 
"a man whose heart was aflame with missionary zeal." Much about this Quaker-turned- 
Unitarian, who married into an Arbella-descended Puritan family before finally becoming 
an Episcopalian, bears decisively on the shape schooling took in this country. Wrege and 
Greenwood describe him as: "often arrogant, somewhat caustic, and inflexible in how his 
system should be implemented.... Taylor was cerebral; like a machine he was polished and 
he was also intellectual. ...Taylor's brilliant reasoning was marred when he attempted to 
articulate it, for his delivery was often demeaning, even derogatory at times." 

Frank Gilbreth's 2 Motion Study says: 

It is the never ceasing marvel concerning this man that age cannot wither nor custom 
stale his work. After many a weary day's study the investigator awakes from a dream of 
greatness to find he has only worked out a new proof for a problem Taylor has already 
solved. Time study, the instruction card, functional foremanship, the differential rate 
piece method of compensation, and numerous other scientifically derived methods of 
decreasing costs and increasing output and wages — these are by no means his only 
contributions to standardizing the trades. 

To fully grasp the effect of Taylor's industrial evangelism on American national 
schooling, you need to listen to him play teacher in his own words to Schmidt at 
Bethlehem Steel in the 1890s: 

Now Schmidt, you are a first-class pig-iron handler and know your business well. You 
have been handling at a rate of twelve and a half tons per day. I have given considerable 
study to handling pig-iron, and feel you could handle forty-seven tons of pig-iron per day 
if you really tried instead of twelve and a half tons. 

Skeptical but willing, Schmidt started to work, and all day long, and at regular intervals, 
was told by the men who stood over him with a watch, "now pick up a pig and walk. 
Now sit down and rest. Now walk — rest," etc. He worked when he was told to work, and 
rested when he was told to rest, and at half past five in the afternoon had his forty-seven 
tons loaded on the car. 

The incident described above is, incidentally, a fabrication. There was no Schmidt except 
in Taylor's mind, just as there was no close observation of Prussian schools by Mann. 
Below, he testifies before Congress in 1912: 



There is a right way of forcing the shovel into materials and many wrong ways. Now, the 
way to shovel refractory stuff is to press the forearm hard against the upper part of the 
right leg just below the thigh, like this, take the end of the shovel in your right hand and 
when you push the shovel into the pile, instead of using the muscular effort of the arms, 
which is tiresome, throw the weight of your body on the shovel like this; that pushes your 
shovel in the pile with hardly any exertion and without tiring the arms in the least. 

Harlow Person called Taylor's approach to the simplest tasks of working life "a 
meaningful and fundamental break with the past." Scientific management, or Taylorism, 
had four characteristics designed to make the worker "an interchangeable part of an 
interchangeable machine making interchangeable parts." 

Since each quickly found its analogue in scientific schooling, let me show them to you: 3 
1) A mechanically controlled work pace; 2) The repetition of simple motions; 3) Tools 
and technique selected for the worker; 4) Only superficial attention is asked from the 
worker, just enough to keep up with the moving line. The connection of all to school 
procedure is apparent. 

"In the past," Taylor wrote, "Man has been first. In the future the system must be first." It 
was not sufficient to have physical movements standardized; the standardized worker 
"must be happy in his work," too, therefore his thought processes also must be 
standardized. 4 Scientific management was applied wholesale in American industry in the 
decade after 1910. It spread quickly to schools. 

In the preface to the classic study on the effects of scientific management on schooling in 
America, Education and the Cult of Efficiency, 5 Raymond Callahan explains that when he 
set out to write, his intent was to explore the origin and development of business values 
in educational administration, an occurrence he tracks to about 1900. Callahan wanted to 
know why school administrators had adopted business practices and management 
parameters of assessment when "Education is not a business. The school is not a factory." 

Could the inappropriate procedure be explained simply by a familiar process in which 
ideas and values flow from high-status groups to those of lesser distinction? As Callahan 
put it, "It does not take profound knowledge of American education to know that 
educators are, and have been, a relatively low-status, low-power group." But the degree 
of intellectual domination shocked him: 

What was unexpected was the extent, not only of the power of business-industrial groups, 
but of the strength of the business ideology... and the extreme weakness and vulnerability 
of school administrators. I had expected more professional autonomy and I was 
completely unprepared for the extent and degree of capitulation by administrators to 
whatever demands were made upon them. I was surprised and then dismayed to learn 
how many decisions they made or were forced to make, not on educational grounds, but 
as a means of appeasing their critics in order to maintain their positions in the school, 
[emphasis added] 



The actual term "scientific management" was created by famous lawyer Louis Brandeis in 1910 for the Interstate Commerce Commission rate 
hearings. Brandeis understood thoroughly how a clever phrase could control public imagination. 

"Gilbreth, the man who made the term "industrial engineering" familiar to the public, was a devotee ofTaylorism. His daughter wrote a best 
seller about the Gilbreth home, Cheaper By The Dozen, in which her father's penchant for refining work processes is recalled. Behind his back, 
Taylor ran Gilbreth down as a "fakir." 

List adapted from Melvin Kranzberg and Joseph Gies, By the Sweat of Thy Brow. 

Taylor was no garden-variety fanatic. He won the national doubles tennis title in 1881 with a racket of his own design, and pioneered slip-on 
shoes (to save time, of course). Being happy in your work was the demand of Bellamy and other leading socialist thinkers, otherwise you 
would have to be "adjusted" (hence the expression "well- adjusted"). Taylor concurred. 

5 Callahan , s analysis why schoolmen are always vulnerable is somewhat innocent and ivory tower, and his recommendation for reform — to 
effectively protect their revenue stream from criticism on the part of the public — is simply tragic; but his gathering of data is matchless and his 
judgment throughout in small matters and large is consistently illuminating. 

The Adoption Of Business Organization By Schools 

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