Retooling the Mind Factory: Education in a Lean State

Retooling the Mind Factory: Education in a Lean State

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By Alan Sears
University of Toronto Press, Higher Education Division © 2003
World Rights
288 Pages
ISBN 9781551930442
Published May 2003
Online discount: 15%
 $28.95    $24.61

Alan Sears examines education reform in relation to a broad process of cultural and economic change. His book makes the case that education reform is one aspect of a broad-ranging neo-liberal agenda that aims to push the market deeper into every aspect of our lives by eliminating or shrinking non-market alternatives. The author begins by showing that advocates of education reform have had to make the case that the current system is not working. This sets the ground for an examination of the so-called 'Common Sense Revolution,' a claim that drastic change was required to redesign government policies to fit a changing world. Lean production methods are a crucial component of this changing world, and broader social and cultural change is now required to consolidate the emerging order built on the spread of these methods. Education reform is designed to recast the relations of citizenship, contributing to the cultural and social change promoted through the social policy of the lean state.

Alan Sears is Professor of Sociology at Ryerson University. He is the author of The New Left: A History of the Future (2014) and co-author with James Cairns of The Democratic Imagination: Envisioning Popular Power in the Twenty-First Century (2012).

Introduction: Education in a Lean State

"The System is Broken": Legitimizing Education Change

A Revolution in Common Sense

Cultural Revolution and Citizenship

Social Policy of the Lean State

Education Reform for a Lean World

The Critique of Liberal Education

Theoretical Foundations

Method of Historical Sociology


Chapter 1: The Embrace of the State

Entering the State

Education Before the Welfare State

The Broad Welfare State and Educational Expansion

Elementary Schools: Engaging the Individual

Secondary Schools: There's a Place for Us

Post-Secondary Education: Increasing Access

Access to Universities

A New Point of Access: Colleges and Polytechnics

The End of Growth?


Chapter 2: Education for an Information Age?

Skills for the Information Age?

Skills and Lean Production

New Kinds of Problem-solving?

Standards Not Skills

Streaming and Labour Market Polarization

The Ideology of Training

Lean Discipline

The Vocationalist Ethos

Skills Planning in a 'Free' Market

Undermining the Culture of Citizenship

Developing a Market Orientation


Chapter 3: Education for the Nation

Educational Optimism and the Broad Welfare State

Seeing Like a State?

Making National Culture

Science and National Culture

Culture in a Lean State

The Cultural Industries After National Culture

Science After History?

Innovation Culture

Science as Innovation Culture

The Culture of Entrepreneurship



Chapter 4: Education, Citizenship and Inequality

Introduction: Education for Equity?

W.E.B. Du Bois on Education for Freedom

Education and the Contradictions of Citizenship

Equity and Education Reform

Education and Racialization

Official Multiculturalism: The Highest Stage of Liberalism

Post-Liberal Education: Standards and Racialization


Chapter 5: Education: Gender and Sexuality

Education and Gender Equity

Gender in a Lean World

Gender and the Broad Welfare State

Masculinity in Mass Production

Domestic Femininity

Childhood and School in the Welfare State

Shifting Gender Relations

Gender and Post-Liberal Education

A Note of Schooling for Sexuality


Chapter 6: Children of the Market

Childhood in a Lean World

Continuous Improvement

Inequality and Polarization

Fear the Children

The Market Orientation

Closing Extra-Economic Space

Commodifying Education Space

Teaching Enterprise Culture

Knowledge as a Commodity

Market Mechanisms in Education

Towards Lean Education


Chapter 7: Learning Freedom

Fighting Back

Teachers on the Front Line

Teacher-bashing and Education Reform

Mobilizing Against the Harris Agenda

Fightbacks by Other Education Workers, High School Students and Parents

Fightbacks in the Post-Secondary Sector

Towards Education for Freedom

Brecht on Teaching and Learning

Mind and Body

Making the Familiar Strange

Art and Science Together

Social Movements and Ways of Knowing

Is Brecht Useful?

Active Learning for a Change




Highly readable, well-argued, timely, covering issues of substanital public and academic interest... The analysis provides an important antidote to conventional discourses on education, at the same time that it provides connections with significant bodies of critical literature.

Terry Wotherspoon, University of Saskatchewan