Ideological Proletarianization: A Case Study of Educators, Robert Runté
  [University of Alberta, 1992]


Ideological Proletarianization of Educators is a case study in the sociology of work and the professions, and reports on a group of educators working within a provincial Department of Education. The central purpose of this study is to determine the extent to which educators exercise autonomous control over their work.

Most educators consider teaching a profession and so expect to be granted some measure of professional autonomy. A review of the sociological literature, however, reveals that many of our traditional assumptions about what constitutes a profession are invalid. To resolve the conceptual confusion which has surrounded the analysis of trends in the organization of mental labour, a synthesis of the deprofessionalization and proletarianization models is proposed. Within this new analytical framework, two alternative interpretations of professional control are examined. A review of Eliot Freidson's professional dominance model leads to the question "Do educators dominate the public education bureaucracy, and so control education policy, or are they subject to direction from an external bureaucratic management?" Magali Sarfatti Larson's model of technobureaucratic professions raises the question "Does the proliferation of specialized central office positions in education indicate the emergence of new technobureaucratic professions whose usurpation of design functions inevitably erodes the autonomy of classroom teachers?"

To address these issues, the participation of various educators in the development of a provincial program of standardized testing is analyzed. The major finding of this study is that educators in the case study province have autonomous control over the technical aspects of their work, but have little control over the goals of education. Specifically, this investigation demonstrates that the introduction of centralized provincial testing has eroded the teachers' control over student evaluation and the curriculum, but that this loss has been partially obscured by the teachers' continued command of evaluation technique. Freidson's professional dominance model is found to be inadequate, although the emergent specialization of test developer cannot be considered an example of a distinct technobureaucratic occupation. Instead, this case study illustrates Charles Derber's model of ideological proletarianization, in which the separation of means and goals within heteronomous bureaucracies allows knowledge workers to achieve only a narrow technical discretion.

Runté Introduction
Runté Table
of Contents
Curriculum Vitae