Education and Scientific Management

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Despite criticisms such as those of NLNSGRS, the National Education Association, Gray and others recently, schools have remained unchanged due largely to the accretion of small adjustments in what remains a very traditional enterprise. The problem is deeply rooted in the propagation and adoption of scientific management with its emphasis on efficiency and control by educators who applied and/or continues to apply it to education, as well as those firm offers marketing essay writing help, to restore order and accountability. This contention is supported by Au who noted in his review of the policies and practices of education in the United States that much of the guiding rationale behind contemporary schooling is linked directly to Frederick Winslow Taylor’s scientific management principles.


This essay discusses the enduring legacies of Fredrick Taylor’s scientific management in American schools and contends that contemporary administrative practices should completely demystify this taunting philosophy around which the organization and management of many schools in the United States continue to be structured. While making critical review of Taylor’s “Scientific Management” and analysis of the historical relationship between scientific management principles and the administration of American public education, I will specifically discuss the propagation of scientific management principles by popular early American school administrators and/or curriculum experts, examine scientific control of competence and accountability in education, and present a critical analysis of the link between scientific management tasks and learning outcomes in education in America.


Frederick W. Taylor’s “scientific” and managerial approach to the workplace maximized efficiency and productivity through the standardization of labor. Through motion and time study, Taylor vigorously studied body movements and assigned exact approximations of the time necessary to complete the labor. A primary principle of his management approach was to eliminate opportunities for chance or accident through the scientific investigation of every detail of labor. Scientific management eliminated the need for 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 their freedom to choose their work, as well as how it should be done. Workers were expected to complete each task under a predetermined work time. The itemization of each basic motion “mechanized” the labor process and almost alienated the worker from the object produced and the action of production. Capitalism made scientific management flourish because it increased productivity and the accumulation of capital for the employer.



Scientific management was characterized largely by methods for distilling work into discrete, quantifiable tasks; measuring observable outputs; exercising heavy managerial control over workers; and minimizing costs by appealing to workers’ economic self-interests, as well as by engaging in systematically derived best practices and planning. Taylor’s system was swiftly taken up by business and, shortly thereafter, education with several conditions coalescing to spur the quest for scientific management in industry, education, and beyond: economic philosophy of free enterprise and a growing concern over how to design America’s system of schooling for a diverse society undergoing an influx of immigration. Together, the developments set the stage for “reformers” to demand more transparency, accountability, and efficiency in business and education. Educational administrators found themselves stuck squarely in the middle of this reform movement. Reformers implored education administrators to avail themselves of the lessons from big business and construct quantitative metrics to measure schools’ products and to employ economic logic to guide the educational enterprise.

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