How did the progressive concern for efficiency affect social reform efforts,public education,government administration, and rural life?

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pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Although we don't usually think of social reform being concerned with efficiency, you can argue that it was during the Progressive Era.  For example, one reason they wanted Prohibition was that they thought that people who didn't drink would be better and more efficient workers than people who did drink.

In education, they wanted to train the upper level kids for thinking jobs and the lower class kids to be drones in factories.  That's more efficient than A) having all the lower class kids completely uneducated and/or B) wasting money teaching Shakespeare to someone who's going to be a factory worker -- their thinking, not necessarily mine.

In government, they wanted it to be run by experts.  This would be more efficient than having it run by politicians because experts would not waste money.  They would just do what was best rather than trying to spend money getting votes for themselves.

kapokkid eNotes educator| Certified Educator

It is a little bit difficult to pin down what time period you are talking about, but if you are asking about the progressive era in the early 20th century, the progressive concerns brought about a series of regulations and reforms in the practices of big business and an increased implementation of things like compulsory education and the beginnings of a drive towards mechanization of the farm and a decrease in the eventual labor demands on those same pieces of land.

Prior to that time, big business had been allowed to run rough-shod over the working poor and most anybody else that got in their way but after things like Upton Sinclair's "The Jungle" and other more publicized outcries over working conditions and monopolies grew in volume, the government was forced to crack down on those big businesses and place some limits on their powers.

jchoi98 | Student

Progressive concern for efficiency affected many things. First, social reform efforts were affected by concern for efficiency. Many states placed stronger laws that improved efficiency. For example, the eighteenth amendment instituted prohibition. This increased efficiency because workers could not do their job well if they were drinking alcohol. The Keating-Owen Act prohibited child labor. This improved efficiency also because children were inexperienced and would often get killed or injured at the workplace. Second, public education was affected. For example, women’s clubs improved school buildings, increased teachers’ salaries and broaden curriculum. In the South, one room school houses were replaced with consolidated and efficient schoolhouses. This improved efficiency of education. Third government was affected by concern for efficiency. Roosevelt improved efficiency by hiring professionals instead of inexperienced workers which expanded the federal bureaucracy. Finally, rural life was affected by concern for efficiency. One way rural life was affected was through the county agent system. The U.S Department of Agriculture placed an agent in each county to teach farmers different and new techniques and to encourage changes in rural social values. This change was to produce an “efficient and contented population in rural America.” Another change was in one-room schools. Progressives replaced inefficient one room school rooms with modern, efficient and consolidated ones that were under professional control. However many farmers rejected these efforts of county agents and school consolidation meant loss of community control of education.