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Frederick Taylor and Science of Education

Posted: 2007-06-21


June 20, 2007

This prescient comment was written in response to an ongoing discussion about Taylorism on Gerald Bracey's EDDRA discussion list. It is certainly worth noting that so-called models of good teaching never seem to take into account the nose-scratching idiosyncratic rituals of good teachers. . . but claim to rely instead on science.

Dr. Alan A. Block
Professor of Education
University of Wisconsin-Stout
Menomonie, Wisconsin 54751

Editor-in-Chief, Journal of The American Association for the Advancement of Curriculum Studies

http://ariseandgonow.blogspot.com



I have always been intrigued by Taylorâs process OF SCIENTIFIC MANAGEMENT:



One: Find âsay, 10 or 15 men (preferably in as many separate establishments and different parts of the country) who are especially skillful in doing the particular work to be analyzed.â If they are the most skilled, then who will decide to watch these 10 or 15 men? AND WHO TAUGHT THEM? HOW WERE THEY TAUGHT?



Two: study the exact series of elementary operations or motions which each of those men use in performing tasks. IN THIS SCENARIO, WHAT IS THE OPPOSITE OF ELEMENTARY OPERATIONS?



Three: study with a stop watch the time required to make each of these elementary movements and then select the quickest way of doing each element of the work. BUT I THOUGHT WE HAD ALREADY CHOSEN THE MOST SKILLED WORKERS?



Four: Eliminate all false movements, slow movements, and useless movements. BUT WHAT IF THE WORKERS ALL HAD IDIOSYNCRATIC MOVEMENTS THAT FACILITATED THE HIGH QUALITY OF THEIR WORKâLIKE SCRATCHING THEIR NOSE OR TOUCHING THEIR SHOE BEFORE FINISHING? THEN IF WE ELIMINATE THE MOVEMENT WE REDUCE THE SKILL LEVEL. AND WHO IS GOING TO DECIDE WHAT IS FALSE, SLOW AND USELESS.



Five: After eliminating all unnecessary movements, collect into one series the quickest and best movements as well as the best implements. I suppose the next step is to teach these to the next generation workers. And so at best work is right and efficient movement based on someone elseâs mind and body, and effort is mechanical, rote, impersonal and mundane.



Not a good model for work, and certainly not for education.













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