Putting school/work back together? A comparison of organizational change in an inner city school and a Fortune 500 company

Paul Skilton-Sylvester, University of Pennsylvania


To understand the changing correspondence between schools and businesses in the post-industrial economy, this qualitative study investigates the process of change in two organizations--one inner city school and one Fortune 500 company--both operating in a neighborhood suffering from the decline of manufacturing; both attempting to change from a management system of "command and control" to a system which can be described under the rubric of "high involvement management," a term used first to describe organizations which aspire to give employees a meaningful involvement in the organization and a stake in its performance (Lawler, 1986; Mohrman & Wohlstetter, 1994). While schools are not businesses, and businesses are not schools, there are analogous elements in the two institutions which create continuities or discontinuities as students become workers, with great importance for their future well-being. The questions posed by this dissertation concern whether schools of lower income students are preparing them for the new organization of work, or whether, through both the explicit and implicit curricula, educators are continuing to prepare students for assembly line jobs that no longer exist. Equally importantly, the dissertation also asks whether the new "reengineered" jobs are any less stultifying than the old ones, and whether we, as educators, can conscionably prepare our students to "fit" in these jobs, or whether we should prepare them to take a more critical stance. The findings of this dissertation show how Taylorism is being "undone" at work, creating both "progressive" and "regressive" trends for workers, and how at school--while many of the reforms seem to the potential to help students to take advantage of the positive trends--the actual implementation of these reforms do not end up realizing this potential for students. To understand these changes at both the school and the corporation I use a systems analysis to chart the webs of influence in, and between, both organizations, charting feedback cycles of change and stasis.

Subject Area

Curricula|Teaching|Labor relations|Elementary education|Labor economics|Management

Recommended Citation

Skilton-Sylvester, Paul, "Putting school/work back together? A comparison of organizational change in an inner city school and a Fortune 500 company" (1998). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI9840241.