Taylorism in Education

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Frederick W. Taylor’s “scientific” and managerial approach to the workplace maximized efficiency and productivity through the standardization of labor. One of the primary principles of his system of management was to eliminate opportunities of chance or accident through the scientific investigation of every detail of labor (171). Through motion and time study, Taylor vigorously studied body movements and assigned exact approximations of the time necessary to complete the labor. Scientific management eliminated the need of skilled labor by delegating each employee one simple task to repeat over and over. Although this method increased the productivity of factories, it stripped employees not only their freedom to choose their work, but also how it would be done. Humans became breathing machines under the expectation that they would complete each task under a “predetermined work time.” The itemization of each basic motion dehumanized the labor process by alienating the worker from the object produced and the action of production. Taylorism did not reach the same level of adoption as its managerial cousin, Fordism. Worker resistance—a topic Braverman demoted to an extended footnote—posed a hindrance to Taylorism. Despite the implementation of incentive-systems, the monotony of the task cannot escape the resistance of workers who may not complete the task under the allotted TMU, whether purposefully in an act of rebellion or uncontrollably due to sickness.

Under capitalism Taylorism flourished because it increased productivity and the accumulation of capital for the employer. Outside of the factory, other institutions have applied ideas of Taylorism in the name of science. When reading about Taylor’s proposal of standardized tasks to increase efficiency and output, I drew parallels to the recent adoption of high stakes standardized testing with the introduction of the No Child Left Behind Act (2001). High-stakes standardized tests have a significant impact on...
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