‘The Procedure’ and how it is harming education

Jan 13, 2014 by

MarionBrady.288x208By Marion Brady –

In a Wall Street Journal op-ed, high-profile education reformer Lou Gerstner, Jr., wrote, “We must start with the recognition that, despite decade after decade of reform efforts, our public K-12 schools have not improved.”

In a speech to the American Federation of Teachers, multi-billionaire Bill Gates agreed, saying the United States has been “struggling for decades to improve our public schools,” and the results have been “dismal.”

In his December 19, 2013 Education Week blog, Marc Tucker, another influential long-time education reformer, asks, “Why has US education performance flatlined?”

Like Gerstner, Gates, and Tucker, I don’t see any evidence that the army of corporate types who left business suites and corner offices to come to the rescue of American education have done anything but dumb down the public’s conception of the ends of public education and the proper means to more acceptable ends.

Corporate reformers have had two decades to make their case that what ails American education is a lack of rigor, and two decades to test their theory that market forces are the surest way to kick-start that needed rigor. To that end, they’ve introduced competition with a vengeance—kids against kids, parents against parents, teachers against teachers, schools against schools, districts against districts, states against states, nations against nations.

via ‘The Procedure’ and how it is harming education.

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  1. Avatar
    Harry Wong

    The college football season has just ended and Jimbo Fisher, the coach of the newly crowned BCS championship Florida State University football team explained the he built his Florida State team using the Nick Saban “Process.” Nick Saban is coach of the highly successful University of Alabama football team and his success is based on a system of procedures or protocols he calls “The Process.” This can be referenced in Sports Illustrated, January 13, 2014, page 36.

    When you watch a football game, every play that is called is a set of procedures for each player. And the cheerleaders who perform during the game and the band that performs at half time has been rehearsed in a set of procedures.

    The pyramids were built with procedures. So was the Empire State Building, the Panama Canal, and every Boeing 787.

    We teachers and coaches of teachers teach students the Cornell Note Taking Procedure, yet Brady lambasted “The Procedure of taking notes during lectures.”

    I teach my granddaughter how to do her assignments, homework, and papers. I map out a check list or a set of procedures for her to get her work done.

    Teachers use procedures to maintain an optimum environment in which instruction and learning can occur. Procedures organize the classroom so the students will know what to do on their own to learn and succeed. The teachers who have a minimum number of discipline problems will tell you that their secret sauce is having procedures. Procedures do not coerce students to behave. Rather, they teach students how to be responsible to themselves and everyone else in the classroom and school.

    In the classroom, students like procedures because they offer safety and security. Students cannot get down to the serious business of learning unless they feel secure in the classroom. They want instruction and guidance on all the how-to’s in class—how to head a paper, how to ask for help, how to sharpen a pencil, how to get to work, how and when to use the computer, and so on.

    We have procedures for taking roll, exchanging papers, registering the students on the first day, taking turns speaking, and moving from task to task. If you don’t, time will be spent on dealing with behavioral issues that arise in an unorganized classroom and learning time will be wasted getting these tasks done. Procedures help the class to flow.

    During transitions—and good teachers have lots of transitions—students know what to do as they move from one activity to another and even move to different activities in separate groups. If there is no transitional procedure, there will be chaos as students wander aimlessly wondering what to do next. But, Brady makes fun of procedures.

    There is a procedure for heading a paper, the MLA format. There is the APA format when writing a dissertation. And if you want to submit an article to Educational Leadership, ASCD will ask you to follow their guidelines or procedures.

    There is nothing more important in schools today than safety procedures. All schools teach lock down procedures. In a science lab, the students must put on goggles before doing a lab. That is a procedure! Titration in a chemistry lab is a procedure. Solving an equation has a set of procedures. In a culinary arts class, the procedure is to lift the lid from a boiling pot with the lid tilted away so the steam does not burn your face. In a music class the class warms up without teacher instruction using a solfège procedure.

    Income taxes will be due in a few months. There is a procedure to completing the Internal Revenue tax form. There is a procedure for recording a television program if you are away. There is a procedure for going through security at an airport.

    Doctors and dentists have procedures. Thank goodness they do as I sit in the dental chair undergoing a root canal procedure. Pilots have procedures, especially when they take off and land. This is aptly described in The Checklist Manifesto: How to Do Things Right by Atul Gawande. If you are sick, the doctor puts you on a regimen. A regimen is a systematic plan or a set of procedures you are asked to follow to improve and maintain the health of a patient.

    Everyday life is full of procedures. For instance, there is a procedure when a person signs on to a webinar. There are procedures while waiting to enter an elevator, which is to step aside to allow passengers to exit before you enter. If you are already on the elevator when more passengers enter, step to the back of the elevator and make room for the new arrivals. Or, if your floor is the next stop, step out, allow new passengers to enter, and then re-board.

    Procedures demonstrate how people are to function in an acceptable and organized manner. When we say that someone is ill-mannered, it is because that person doesn’t know or doesn’t care about the local customs, culture, or procedures.

    At the conclusion of a wedding ceremony, a procedure is followed. The bride, groom, and wedding party leave. They are followed by the parents in the first row, who are followed by each row of guests from the front of the seating area. This is the same at a funeral. There is an unwritten, polite set of procedures when people disembark from a plane that has landed. You wait your turn as the people seated in front of you leave the plane first. Likewise, when cars come to a four-way stop sign, they know the procedure as to who and when to proceed through the intersection. These are all polite procedures.

    And finally there is the most basic of all procedures that teachers teach: Thank You, Please, and Excuse Me.

    • Avatar
      Teacher with a Brain

      I believe it is tempting to characterize this “debate” as an “either/or” when indeed teaching procedures and learning in the sense Marion Brady might prefer are not mutually exclusive. It is a matter of degree and emphasis.

      Arguably, we need procedures so that people in a community will know what to do, when to do it and how to do it. Oftentimes instructional procedures are drawn from methods that folks have determined work and every field has procedures from medicine to accounting.

      When the procedures become the content and the goal we have, perhaps, lost sight of what we have been tasked with doing. I submit that we must maintain a balance and a willingness to always strive to self-evaluate and to do better. If we can “teach” this value to our students, we are on the right track.

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