In his first interview since making a controversial statement about "white suburban moms," Education Secretary Arne Duncan said Thursday his choice of words was "clumsy" and had obscured the message he was trying to deliver about the importance of raising standards in schools nationwide.
"My wording was clumsy. And I apologized for it," Duncan said on MSNBC's "Morning Joe."
"My message was simple. When you raise standards, that's a challenging thing. And, I was challenging state school chief officers to do a better job articulating why raising standards is the right thing for all children."
Meeting with state education chiefs last week, Duncan responded to complaints about the controversial Common Core curriculum when he described opponents as "white suburban moms who, all of a sudden, (discovered) their child isn't as bright as they thought they were, and their school isn't quite as good as they thought they were," CNN reported.
The Common Core curriculum has come under fire from critics who claim the program is pushing students into a one-size-fits-all approach to education, which was also one of the criticisms of former President George W. Bush "No Child Left Behind" national education standards program. Proponents of the core curriculum say it helps level the playing field in schools across the country.
"My point was this. When you dummy down standards, and you're lying to children — that affects all children. All families," Duncan said when asked if his statement about suburban moms was somehow politically motivated.
"Morning Joe" co-host Mika Brzezinski noted that statement "really did resonate," not in a particularly good way, across the nation. She asked what frustration, if any, had led him to make the statement.
"I was challenging education leaders to better communicate how important and how difficult this transition is. Again, there's nothing easy about raising standards. And, that's exactly what I was trying to do," Duncan replied.
During his appearance, Duncan stressed the need for recruiting the "next generation of great teachers" as Baby Boomer educators move toward retirement. He called it a "once in a generation opportunity" for education.
"If we can bring in amazing talent, we'll help elevate education for the next 25, 30 years," he said.
As part of the recruitment effort, he said public service announcements were running on YouTube and on across the Internet. He is also traveling the country visiting college campuses as part of the drive to attract new teachers to the profession.
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