What Did The New Secretary of Education Say At His Confirmation Hearing?

Arne Duncan, the new Secretary of Education in the Obama Administration was confirmed unanimously. Saying that it was an “extraordinary time” for the nation and an “extraordinary time to be working on education,” Duncan testified that he approached the position of secretary of education with three deeply held beliefs. First, every child from every background can be successful when adults do their jobs and give the children the opportunities to succeed. Second, when adults fail to properly educate children, they perpetuate poverty and social failure. Third, children have one chance at a quality education. For that last reason, he said, “we must work with an extraordinary sense of urgency. Simply put, we cannot wait because they cannot wait.”

Explaining that President Obama views education as “both a moral obligation and an economic imperative,” Duncan outlined some of the education initiatives that Obama plans to pursue. He mentioned the need to improve the access to and the quality of early childhood education, to raise standards and increase teacher quality, and to ensure greater access to higher education and strengthen institutions such as community colleges, which he said were “critically important” to giving people a second chance at retooling their skills and getting back into the workforce.

Duncan noted two themes that were very important to him and that he felt should permeate the work that needed to be done. The first was to do dramatically better and continue to innovate, which, as he explained it, means building upon what works and challenging the status quo. The second was to recognize and reward excellence.

“We have to elevate the teaching profession,” he said. “We have to build upon this next generation of leaders in our schools and our state boards. And we have to find ways to scale up what works. There are great, great pockets of excellence as we look across every state in this country. We have to find ways that scale up what works and shine a spotlight on those educators who are doing an extraordinary job and going above and beyond the call of duty…”