Over at the Curmudgucation blog, the very funny Peter Greene takes Bruni's arguments apart, line for line. What's interesting is that Greene points out the half-truths to what Bruni says. This is a major irritant for me - just tell the WHOLE story, not just part of it if you have the courage of your convictions.
I'm just going to pull out some great comebacks from Greene but do go read both pieces.
Greene starts at the ending statements of Bruni's piece:
And that’s one of my chief gripes with the battle cry to banish the Department of Education. It’s policy by sound bite. There’s too much of that already.
I've used this before but I'll say it again - oh pot, the kettle is calling. Meaning that "policy by sound bite" is part and parcel to EVERY single ed reformer.
Best Greene argument against Bruni's line of thought on the Department of Education:
And here's the problem with strong central planning. It requires your central planner to be right every time, and no human can pull that off. But with central control, a single bad idea becomes everybody's bad idea. And when your central planner has mostly only bad ideas, you get widespread disaster.
When your system is infected with money, that only makes things worse, because central planning makes one-stop-shopping for those who want to buy themselves some friendly policy decisions.
(Shades of SPS, maybe that's the problem with central planning in our district - our central planners can't seem to get it right.)
Other great Greene lines:
- So-- to recap-- Bruni has taken the Senate attempt to re-authorize the ESEA, and instead of placing that in the context of a bill that has been awaiting re-authorization by Congress since 2007 and has finally been tackled by the appropriate Senate committee for that tackling, he's creating a new narrative in which, steeped in an anti-department atmosphere, Murray and Alexander just kind of go rogue and float this bill created out of whole cloth just to spank the department.
- There's a whole list of things that the states can't be trusted to do correctly, and a department is needed to Make Them Behave.
- From Common Core to Big Standardized High Stakes Testing, the USED has become the champion of one-size-fits-all reform (though, of course, wealthy folks are exempt).
- USED's ideas about how to evaluate teachers are stupid. Their major contribution has been to demand that teachers be evaluated by using student test scores, an approach supported by no actual research or science or even common sense, and repudiated by pretty much everybody who doesn't have financial or political benefits tied to the approach.
- Name one state, one school, one corner of the country where politicians and leaders are saying, "Let's never evaluate teachers at all." Well, except for charter schools. But the USED supports charters and the charter right to make up any rules they like, so again-- if this is a problem, the USED is definitely not on the case.
- The best teacher evaluation systems are coming from local school districts, not the feds. Time magazine is profiling a system created by UCLA schools in Koreatown (in LA-- my son's neighborhood!) that Audrey Amrein-Beardsley calls "legitimately new and improved."
- On Bruni's argument that it is wrong for some conservatives to want to get rid of the USED:
Mitch Daniels (former governor and Bush administration person): It's not "ludicrous" to get rid of the department. We did fine without them before 1979. Also, they haven't improved anything.
- Bruni seems to slip into the middle of his own piece to say that we have to compete globally and so students must be educated not just for their state, but for the whole world. Because everybody remembers America's of young people who never leave their home state because they are only educated in a state-specific way?
- Under modern ed reformsterism, we locate educational problem areas and mark them for strip-mining, while simultaneously depriving the folks who live in those communities of voice or vote. Reformsters did not descend upon post-Katrina New Orleans out of a deep, driving concern that the poor children of the city were being deprived of an education-- they packed up their bags and headed south because it was an opportunity, a chance to create a system that gave a whole spectrum of profiteers and investors the opportunity to get their hands on public education tax dollars.