There’s a special resemblance between the struggles against scientific management, or Taylorism, and today’s teacher resistance to corporate reform schemes. Just as factory workers fought top-down dictates, deskilling, and the installation of anemic work processes, so too are teachers trying to prevent the undemocratic implementation of high-stakes testing and merit pay, assaults on professionalism, and the dumbing down and narrowing of curricula.
There are more obvious parallels: Proponents of scientific management counted some prominent progressives in their ranks, just like the contemporary left-neoliberals hawking education reform. The nostrums of both Taylorism and the education accountability movement paper over foundational conflicts and root causes. Many of those who espouse education reform cast their solutions as unimpeachably “scientific” and “data-driven,” yet as with scientific management partisans, the empirical grounding of their prescriptions is highly dubious. And proponents of scientific management and corporate school reform share an antipathy toward unions, often casting them as self-interested inhibitors of progress.
The unions-as-impediment framing is correct in one respect, and here the case of Taylorism is instructive: only organized workers can thwart agents of dehumanization.