The five characteristics of Ritzer's concept of McDonaldization can be seen throughout the every day life of any student on campus. The five characteristics being efficiency, calculability, predictability, control and the irrationality of rationality are seen from the first classes in the morning to the latest night lab. These characteristics are a very important part of today's society but they do have a effect on the freedom that the students living by them have be it for better or for worse.
Efficiency seems like a good thing and I'm sure most people would agree that to be efficient is more desirable than to be less efficient. In the university lifestyle efficiency is one of the most stressed topics in the everyday life. It starts when the alarm goes off in the morning and to be most efficient most students will give themselves just enough time to get showered, dressed and catch the bus without a minute to spare. It continues in class when there is a certain amount of time set aside for the professor to teach the students a set amount of information. Should the professor wish to go over this time it is very unlikely that they will be able to persuade their students to stick around for an extra five minutes as the students have most likely made plans that commence as soon as their class is over. Then it continues when the students go home and have a certain amount of homework that they will plan on doing before there favorite t.v show comes on, which they will again have planned time for to add it into their day. Then it might be off to a little more studying before going to bed at a set time to make sure to get a good eight-hour sleep before waking up to the beeping of the alarm the next day to start all over again.
The above example does seem like a day with no time wasted but it also seems like a rather monotonous and boring lifestyle. We are taught at a young age to plan out our day to the hour when we are given day planners and sometimes even forced to use them with a punishment if you fail to do so. I was even told at a young age by one of my teachers that the only way to be successful in university was to use one of these day planners. Even after hearing all of the positive things that planning my day could do for me I still always have freedom of choice and throughout my high school years I chose not to use a day planner and still managed to make honor roll standings. With the confidence I got from high school I entered university thinking that a could still get mid eighties doing little more than showing up for class once in a while an never studying for tests. After my first semester I found that this assumption turned out to be untrue when I finished with a GPA of 63%. Even not doing so well in my first year has been planned into my life though as I only took seven courses so they wont effect my GPA in my med school application. Personally I enjoy having plans for everything that I do, but the choice of having my first year as a party year was an enjoyable one, though not all that efficient, that I don't think that I would want to take back.
Ritzer's second Characteristic of McDonaldization is calculability. Calculability is the idea that bigger is better despite the quality of the product produced. If we look at this in a university setting it is clear to see that this carries on into the campus lifestyle. Though university is not as bad as high school there are still some professors who want as many words as possible in an essay despite how much information is getting across. This is another thing that was taught to me at a young age. For example when I was in grade two every day we had to write for ten minutes saying what we did the night before. It didn't matter if all you did was read a book and fell asleep it was still mandatory that you continue to write for the ten-minute period. if all else failed and I ran out of things to write I was told to just continue to write “I have nothing left to write” over and over until the time was up. From this training I learned to fill a three page essay with little more than the answer to one simple question. Now that I am in university and I know that quantity isn't everything I will still write a ten-page essay if given the option to write between eight to ten pages.
The idea of “calculability” is one that I have always thrived on in my educational life. Seeing as I don't have the most advanced vocabulary or a dazzling writing style I have always relied on my ability to sound knowledgeable rather than get my point straight across. Of course I cant complain about the marks I receive for having this ability but it does somewhat hinder my overall education. Even in subjects as set in stone as chemistry it is still possible to generalize an answer in many words to receive full marks without fully understanding the subject. So although the idea of calculability does sound appealing I feel that it does little more than give a false sense of satisfaction in something that in reality could be greatly improved.
Then there is of course predictability which I think is more prominent in the professors lives than the students. As a student there is a lot of predictability throughout your day but it is spread throughout many classes. Students can expect to get to a lecture hall that is usually somewhat uncomfortable and sit in silence taking notes while their Prof. talks about a preplanned subject. But at least the students only have to put up with each predictable class for only 3 moths before moving on to another, that will most likely be the very similar, class. The professors on the other hand have to deal with classes of up to three-hundred students who all have very similar if not the same questions and after three months of answering them get to start all over again. I'm sure that even you Dr. Loewen are reading a lot of the same ideas in this essay that you have seen in many more before it, even though sociology is one of the less predictable subjects. University seems to be a very predictable place to be, but then again what isn't predictable these days, or if not predictable causes no surprise to those who witness it.
Predictability can be seen as a good thing and is seen as a good thing by many people whether they choose to admit so or not. The predictability of exams makes it much easier for professors to mark them by just giving someone else an answer sheet and getting them to do it. Multiple choice exams are the most extreme example of this as the only role a human plays in marking them is placing them into a machine. The fact that everything is predictable is almost never even questioned and just widely accepted by society. In fact if something unpredicted comes into someone's day they will usually see it as just something that is slowing down the overall efficiency of their day. If you were to go and take a poll on the streets though I'm sure that most people would say that they don't want to have a predictable life and like to have some surprises every now and then. I think that most of these peoples ideas of a surprise is a planned trip to Mexico or to visit grandma and not an unsuspected flat tire or something along those lines. So if the surprise is planned it is acceptable but if its truly a surprise it is usually not something people look upon kindly. I think that all of this ties into the idea that people fear change and a change free life is a predictable life, which is a happy life.
Control is a unavoidable latter system that it doesn't seem anyone is free of. For example students are under the control of their professors. The professor decides when work will be due and how much work will be due at that time. The student has the choice to either do the work in the given time or to take a zero on the assignment which doesn't give much choice to the student. Then the professors are under the control of their dean who wants to see good marks coming from the professors' class, but not to good of course. So that puts the professor in the position of needing to make the work easy enough for the students so that they will average the acceptable mark in the class which will make the dean happy. But if all of the marks in every professor's class are below average the dean now will need to answer to the chair of the university. The university is of course saying that is only concern is that of the students' education but money also plays a major roll in this system. If the college has bad grades as a whole it will be seen as a lower standard of education and less people will want to enter it. With less people there is less tuition being paid and therefor less money for everyone. Without the money the control system cannot function and there will need to be some major changes to regain “control”.
Control is something in everyday society that seems to be fought with the most severity, but also the thing that holds the lifestyle that we know and love together. Students rarely feel that the work that they are expected to do is fair and always want less. Teachers feel under appreciated and think that they should get more money, inevitably going on strike and finding out that the average person agrees with them. Then there are the people who control the spending and will do as much as possible to keep the overall spending to a minimum. Then of course there are the people who feel that no one controls them and they will perform illegal activities to survive and these people most likely do not succeed to the extent that they had hoped when beginning they're endeavors. So overall being control is something that many people see as undesirable, including me, but something that we have to accept must be in place unless we want to be living in a completely different sociological world.
Last in McDonaldization there is the irrationality of rationality. As a student this is most prominent in that we are told to finish school as quickly as possible and start our careers. The same people who say that they want this for us are also the people who make their money from the tuition of students who are attending the university. Also rationally the best way to do well in school would be to study during all of your free time. While this seems like the rational way to succeed in school I cant think of anyone I know who would not burn out in under a week if all that they did was sleep and study. Summer courses also seem like a rational choice when it comes to completing your degree but how is a student supposed to have any spending money for the year if they don't work a summer job. All of these rational ways of going about doing things seem like good ideas until you actually think about personally doing them.
The irrationality of rationality is a great way to look at the expectations put on all people today be they students or employees. Everyone out there is expected to get as much done as possible in as little time as possible. Should someone find away to get something done quicker it wont remain their secret but will be shown to everyone else so that they can be doing just as much. This makes all people expendable as they can just be replaced by anyone, which really adds to the machine like expectations put on people these days. If the world was a purely rational one I think that it would be a very unexciting world and not one that I would enjoy living in.
With all of these characteristics of McDonaldization in our everyday lives we have to ask the question of how much freedom we have to our decisions. First of all we need to know what freedom is. Freedom is the ability to do something without any major negative repercussions. So when you look at freedom under that light we have a lot of freedom but we also have very little at the same time. Using science as an example we have the freedom to explore into any aspect of this world that can be experimented with. But by doing this we are also giving up the freedom to be accepted by those who only believe the pseudosciences and most religions also from upon anyone who questions anything that was made by god. We also have the freedom to believe what we are told by the bible or other things that can never be proven. The danger of accepting something like the bible and nothing else is that everything in the bible is already there. There is only a certain amount of knowledge to be learnt from the bible and there is no expanding or questioning this knowledge. So without the ability to question things the human race would not be able to evolve our knowledge as a whole. At this day and age we really have to ability to do almost anything that we want but in doing anything we are bound to be shunned from another society. So looking at freedom to do things we can do whatever we really want but with that comes the fact that we can never be accepted by everyone so with freedom we lose freedom.
McDonaldization is a part of society that is widely accepted today as the best way to get work done and make society run smoothly. I would say that from my personal experience that most people support McDonaldization and have no problem with it in there work areas. It makes work get done quicker which in turn means more money, usually for the owner, but the employees usually see a smaller pay raise with improved efficiency that they don't frown upon. We do have the freedom to live a life that is not McDonaldized but by making that choice there is a good possibility that the rest of society will see you as abnormal. So with the question of is society a prison I think that the best way to look at it as that society is a giant prison with many different cells and we have the freedom to choose who we wish to share a cell with. But than again in the words of Carl Sagan “But of course I might be wrong”.