Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Dr. Susan M. Carlson

Second Advisor

Dr. David J. Hartmann

Third Advisor

Dr. Douglas V. Davidson

Fourth Advisor

Dr. Paul Farber


Labor process, loss of Autonomy, deskilling, Braverman, teacher


This dissertation explores how the labor process of public school teaching, a white-collar profession, is deskilled. In a content analysis of English/language arts teacher’s manuals and teacher’s editions of student textbooks, I examine public school teachers’ degree of autonomy from an objective, macro-analytical perspective. Applying Harry Braverman’s (1974) theory of the degradation of the modern worker under monopoly capitalism, I explain how teacher deskilling reflects structural factors in the work context that prevent teachers from accessing their professional and personal skill sets via the separation of conception and execution in the instructional labor process.

The formal curricula drive the teaching labor process (Ozga and Lawn 1981, 1988; Reid 2003). Thirteen teacher’s manuals and fourteen student textbooks from the immediate post-World War II era, as well as twelve teacher’s editions of student textbooks from 2001 through 2012 were subjected to content analysis to look for changes in teachers’ autonomy over (1) planning, developing, and organizing instruction, (2) presenting instructional material, and (3) assessing student learning. The two time periods are distinguished by the cumulative involvement of the federal government in local education policies and practices. Potential threats to autonomy are contextualized through a historical review of the federal government’s involvement in the affairs of local school districts between the end of World War II and the beginning of the era of accountability in 2001.

The results indicate that today’s English/language arts public school teachers experience a significant loss of autonomy in the instructional labor process as compared to their peers from the 1950s. As required by recent federal education legislation, state and local school districts conceptualize the instructional labor process via the development of specific academic standards, comprehensive curricula, and standardized testing protocols. These formal curricula embody the federal government’s definition of the instructional labor process. I conclude that modern formal curricula induce loss of autonomy in the instructional labor process by restricting teachers’ work-related activities to pre-determined content standards and academic benchmarks.

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Dissertation-Campus Only

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