Peter Greene performs a valuable dissection of Frank Bruni’s uninformed defense of the U.S. Department of Education and its current occupant, who has done so much to demoralize teachers, demand high-stakes testing, and pump many millions into the privatization movement. The column wouldn’t matter so much if it appeared in a grocery store tabloid, but Bruni writes for the New York Times.

Let it be noted that Bruni was a wonderful critic of food and wine in earlier days at the Times.

But he shows no evidence of knowing anything about education. He thinks American kids are too “coddled.” (Even the 50% living in low-income families?) He may have been the only critic in the nation to applaud the pro-charter, pro-parent trigger movie “Won’t Back Down,” which opened in 2,500 movie theaters and disappeared without a trace within 30 days.

Here is a small part of Peter Greene’s excellent post:

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.

So what else does Bruni want to point out in this alternate universe?

Well, goodness. Under this proposal, the USED would not have say “over how (or if)” teacher evaluation would occur. And– Good lord in heaven– here’s a short list of Things Bruni Does Not Know:

1) Even with the USED’s watchful eye, states are managing to gut the teaching profession. Current leader in assaulting the profession would be the Wisconsin, where they’re thinking that maybe anybody– even a high school dropout– can be a teacher.

2) USED’s ideas about how to evaluate teacher 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.

3) “Or if”? Come on. 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.

4) 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.”