Retooling the Mind Factory: Education in a Lean State


282 pages
Contains Bibliography, Index
ISBN 1-55193-044-7
DDC 379.713






Reviewed by Geoffrey Harder

Geoffrey Harder is a public services librarian and manager, Knowledge Common, in the Science and Technology Library of the University of Alberta.


This book undertakes to critically examine the Ontario educational
reforms embarked on by the Harris government during the late 1990s,
continuing to the present even after his departure in 2002. The author
contends that the neo-liberal shift begun during the Harris era has
moved the educational system and other government-regulated services
toward what the author labels as the creation of “lean states”—the
elimination of fat, excessive spending, and wasteful management
alongside a reorientation toward the market. This agenda is discussed as
the thrust behind a series of misguided policies aimed toward fixing a
system perceived as broken, when in fact, the damage to follow the
“common sense revolution” was more detrimental than any good that
ever came of the educational reforms.

Clearly, Sears has done his homework: his work is well researched and
well documented, as evidenced by his extensive list of sources and
chapter notes. The book is also well organized, beginning with his
primary argument derived from the concept of the lean state, and
gradually expanding in scope to discuss the many impacts this has had on
educational policy and teaching, from early childhood education to
post-secondary institutions. For those less familiar with the Harris
reforms, the book does well to lay clear the development of policy and
practice as they

affected teachers, schools, educational policy-makers, and of course,
the students themselves.

Retooling the Mind Factory is a worthwhile read not only for those who
share Harris’s concerns about the state of education today, but also
for those who share an interest in the broader effects of educational
reform as it relates to lifelong learning and social change.


Sears, Alan., “Retooling the Mind Factory: Education in a Lean State,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed April 23, 2024,