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Thu Jan 3, 2013, 12:09 AM

 

Lean Production: Inside the war on public education

On September 10, nearly 30,000 Chicago teachers went on strike for the first time in 25 years. This was no mere breakdown in negotiations over wages or healthcare contributions. At issue, as many have noted, was the fundamental direction of public education...Meanwhile, in Detroit, students and teachers returned to dramatically altered schools. Over the summer, Roy Roberts, the schools’ “emergency financial manager,” had unilaterally imposed a contract on the city’s teacher union allowing elementary school class sizes to jump from 25 to 40 students and high school classes to 61 students. These class size reforms were coupled with a ten percent pay cut for Detroit teachers....

But stretching workers past their breaking point and increasing hours while gutting compensation is nothing new. The business model of education reform is an extension of a process called lean production that transformed the U.S. private sector in the 1980s and 90s. In education, just as in heavy manufacturing, the greatest damage done by lean production is not done at the bargaining table, but in the destruction of teachers’ working (and students’ learning) conditions...

The Team Concept

The team concept is a critical component of lean production. In lean workplaces, labor journalist Jane Slaughter writes, worker teams are designed to enlist workers “in speeding up their own jobs… It is no longer enough for workers to come to work and do their jobs; they need to become ‘partners in production...’” School managers promote teams as empowering for teachers...In reality, these meetings highlight how little control teachers have over their time and workload at lean schools...tasks (are) piled on top of teaching workloads that were constantly increasing due to growing class sizes and cuts to support staff...This is not an accident...The team concept both increases stress on the workforce and creates the illusion that workers themselves are responsible for this stress....teachers are never given the option to reject the team model, which generates the work; they have to choose between being a “team player...” or letting down their co-workers.

Management by Stress

What makes lean production unique from other forms of capitalist production is its “Management by Stress” approach: to achieve maximum efficiency, management deliberately stresses workplace systems to the point of breakdown...In Choosing Sides: Unions and the Team Concept, Jane Slaughter and Mike Parker note that... In a lean factory...supervisors speed up the production process until a worker drops a widget, loses a finger, or has a nervous breakdown. Such breakdowns are viewed as a positive because they allow management to identify weak links in the chain of production. As Slaughter and Parker write, “If the system is stressed…the weakest points become evident…Once the problems have been corrected, the system can then be further stressed (perhaps by reducing the number of workers) and then rebalanced.” The line can then be sped up again until the next breakdown occurs...

The goal of lean education isn’t teaching or learning; it’s creating lean workplaces where teachers are stretched to their limits so that students can receive the minimum support necessary to produce satisfactory test scores. It is critical for teachers to see this clearly because lean production is indeed “continuous”: in other words, it’s insatiable. The harder teachers work to satisfy the demands of lean managers, the harder we will be pushed, until we break down. There is no end to this process. It is equally critical for parents to understand that their children are being subjected to school reforms that are in fact experiments in educational deprivation. The goal of business-minded reformers is not to create “better” schools for children. It’s to create leaner schools for administrators to manage with greater ease. Parents and teachers must fight this process together, or student learning in public schools will continue to suffer.

http://jacobinmag.com/2012/09/lean-production-whats-really-hurting-public-education/

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Reply Lean Production: Inside the war on public education (Original post)
HiPointDem Jan 2013 OP
AnotherMcIntosh Jan 2013 #1
We People Jan 2013 #2
LWolf Jan 2013 #9
Smarmie Doofus Jan 2013 #3
HiPointDem Jan 2013 #4
HiPointDem Jan 2013 #5
Smarmie Doofus Jan 2013 #7
quaker bill Jan 2013 #6
HiPointDem Jan 2013 #8

Response to HiPointDem (Original post)

Thu Jan 3, 2013, 12:37 AM

1. Privatization = harvesting of public assets

 

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Response to HiPointDem (Original post)

Thu Jan 3, 2013, 01:40 AM

2. Probably the most depressing article on education yet, because it's already happening

As the author says, the system will be "insatiable" and demand more and more "breakdowns" as the goal of "efficiency" is met.

This needs to stop being called "Education" - I wonder what more appropriate label it could be given?

Aside from some parents and teachers (and some observant students), this is all under the radar of the general public.

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Response to We People (Reply #2)

Thu Jan 3, 2013, 02:33 PM

9. I read that

and felt like the author had been following me around for the last decade, documenting the increasing stress at work, and the corresponding decline in health, prosperity, and personal life.

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Response to HiPointDem (Original post)

Thu Jan 3, 2013, 01:50 AM

3. Phenomenal article. k and r A real eye-opener.

That author is a local NYC activist/teacher/writer.

I knew he was good but...frankly.... this artlcle leaves me speechless. I hadn't understood what was actually going on my last two years in that system... at least hadn't understood it *fully*.... until I read this.

I gotta re-read it in the am.

Can we repost it to ed forum? Every teacher should see it.

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Response to Smarmie Doofus (Reply #3)

Thu Jan 3, 2013, 02:23 AM

4. sure, i'll post it now.

 

During the era of praise for japanese management techniques I read a similar analysis... It was also an eye-opener.

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Response to Smarmie Doofus (Reply #3)

Thu Jan 3, 2013, 02:38 AM

5. I looked johnson up after you said he was an nyc activist. special ed, & wouldn't you know it --

 

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Response to HiPointDem (Reply #5)

Thu Jan 3, 2013, 10:05 AM

7. That's a *great* piece......

... that P2BLib posted when it ran last year and we had some fun playing with .

http://www.democraticunderground.com/?com=view_post&forum=1124&pid=1039

It really hit home with me because, like the author, I was teaching a spec ed population and being rated on a rubric designed for gen ed.

And being rated as a teacher by spoiled, oversized children with no real background in *either* area of teaching.

I've since seen him at a couple of union-related events. I think he's moving more into direct activism.

Let's hope he doesn't stop writing.

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Response to HiPointDem (Original post)

Thu Jan 3, 2013, 06:02 AM

6. They aren't restricting this to education

From personal experience, it is showing up in regulatory agencies too.

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Response to quaker bill (Reply #6)

Thu Jan 3, 2013, 02:06 PM

8. +1

 

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