notes for chapter 14 textbook readings associated with lecture 10

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6 Jan 2011
-Sears argues that education reform is not propelled by a dramatic shift in skills
required in the labour market , although it is tied to the disciplinary requirements of
systems of lean production
Skills for the Information Age?
-Labour market is changing in important ways and so it must follow that the
educational system should also change
- “as the restructuring of Ontarios economy continues, it is expected that demand for
both full-time and part-time study will increase, as people of all ages pursue
learning to acquire knowledge and skills to remain competitive in the
workplace (Ontario Ministry of Education and Training OMET)
-This chapter examines the contradictory relationship between skills and education
-There is a common assumption that workers would need more education in the
contemporary world
-Livingstone describes this assumption that increased skills should be required as
the prevailing myth of post-industrial work
-Lean production is bringing into play new technologies and methods of work
organization; the optimistic account of lean production presents it as a method for
increasing worker autonomy and skill in the labour process
Skills and Lean Production
-Lean production builds on the central Taylorist techniques of breaking
jobs down into elemental tasks, organizing work around a sequence of
specified tasks to be carried out as management control over the process as
a whole
-Workers tend to develop their own knowledge of work processes, learning to do
things better to gain some control over the pace of work or to gain break time
-Lean production attempts to harvest this knowledge and use it to speed up
the process
-There is a good argument then, that the changes we are seeing in the workplace are
not in any simple sense about upping the level of skill
-Lean production fits in towards the degradation of work since the early 20th century
through the implementation of Taylorist scientific management methods
New Kinds of Problem Solving
-Even if we are not seeing a new trend towards upgrading, that does not mean that
there is no change in the skill requirements for jobs
-Tony Elger argues in his critique of Braverman that mass production throughout the
20th century has not produced a homogenous deskilled labour force, but rather a
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complex and differentiated occupational structure requiring diverse skills and
-Different skills may be required as labour processes are transformed, even
if this change does not mark an upgrading
-A new emphasis on interpersonal skills (as associated with team work) and on
particular problem-solving skills (which he labels as intellective)
oworkers need to make sense of data by using inferential reasoning and
systematic thinking rather than by responding to physical cues, which in past
made workers skilled papermakers
-The labour market has shifted so that the monitoring of the production process is
mediated by machines rather than done in a direct hands-on fashion (change in
skills rather than upgrading)
-Long term studies seem to indicate that the rate of change in skill requirements has
generally been declining rather than increasing since the 1960s
-We are mainly seeing credential inflation in a tight labour market and an increasing
stigmatization of people with a low level of formal education
Standards not Skills
-An Ontario government public discussion document argues that there is currently a
problem with the skills students have upon graduation
othere are more and more young people who arrive at the next stage of their
careers- university, college or the search for their first job- without the
skills and knowledge required for success
-The solution to the problem of skills development, according to the Ontario
government, is quite simply to raise standard
-Rather than ensuring that more people actually acquire these skills, the
goal of educational restructuring seems to identify those who have learned
them and those who have not
-Programs that actually promote the threshold level literacy skills that might be
required in the changing labour market are actually being cut in Ontario
-Programs that teach literacy skills to adults are being cut while the
measurement of these skills in the schools is being increased
Streaming and Labour-Market Polarization
-Overall, the secondary system will stream students towards universities, colleges or
no post-secondary education, and a new teacher-advisor system will help direct
students towards appropriate streaming choices beginning in grade 7
-Rather, the aims seems to be to differentiate education on the basis of students prior
acquisition of skills; those who have trouble with these skills will be streamed
towards no post-secondary education and a very dismal future on the margins of the
labour market
-Educational restructuring marks an important shift away from the emphasis on
citizenship associated with the liberal education model
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