The Cult of ‘Scientific Management’…(Must Read!)

Monday, September 6, 2010
By Paul Martin

by John Taylor Gatto

Chapter 9 of The Underground History of American Public Education

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 Management1 (1911), published thirty-nine years later, Taylor summarized the new managerial discipline as follows:

The Rest…HERE

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