McDonaldization and Higher Education
This entry was created by a student in Stanford’s Rhetoric of Food Science and Politics class. For more about the class and the assignment, click here.
I love Happy Meals. Opening the house-shaped box, getting my free toy; it’s one of the best things about being a kid. And who hasn’t begged their parents to stay an extra fifteen minutes to play in the playground or laughed at a commercial with Ronald McDonald and the Hamburgler? McDonald’s is a part of childhood, and it’s a part of life. There are McDonalds’ all over the world and on most street corners all over America. But McDonald’s has an impact beyond just the fast food arena.
The term “McDonaldization” refers to the widespread influence McDonald’s business model has had on various aspects of life and society; the health system, shopping centers, media, and …the education system. It seems a bit far-fetched. When I first read about it, I was pretty surprised. How does McDonald’s, home of the Big Mac and super sized fries, affect how I am educated? But through reading Ritzer’s The McDonaldization of Society, I realized how McDonaldization and its ideals of efficiency, calculability, predictability, and control have revolutionized the university system.
Testing has felt tremendous influence from the emphasis on efficiency. University examinations have moved from individual testing by professors to nowadays where most exams are machine graded, text-book given multiple choice tests. Thus, with the infiltration of McDonaldization into the educational system, test taking has become extremely efficient for the professor.
McDonaldization has also changed how we view the value of education. Students are now judged by statistics and grades; their entire educational experience summed up into “standardized forms with quantifiable ratings” (64). The main question posed by Ritzer with this shift towards calculability is, “Can the influence of a person’s academic work be reduced to a single number?” (67).
Predictability is another result of the permeation of Mcdonaldization in the higher education system. The university system has turned into a “cookie-cutter” system. One can expect to find the same courses being taught, the same teaching system being utilized, the same textbooks being used, and the same type of examinations in just about every university. Because of this, a unique college experience is difficult to find.
The university system is all about control. The professors have to follow “certain rules and regulations” (106) classes are strictly regulated in time, and grading is ideally standardized to ensure fairness. But students are under even more control. Because courses are “highly structured” (106) students are expected to follow certain protocol and “perform in specific ways” (106). Students are expected to attend classes at certain times or face consequences, and they are expected to conform their learning curve to the times when classes start and end.
All in all, McDonaldization has had a huge influence over the higher education system. Whether that influence has been beneficial or negative is a controversial issue. Reading Ritzer’s The McDonaldization of Society has shown me how much McDonald’s and its business model has permeated society and our lives. So the next time you order a Happy Meal, just keep in mind that you may be getting more than you expect.
Ritzer, George . The McDonaldization of Society. Rev. ed. Pine Forge Press, 1995. Print.