Duncan says furor over Obama speech 'silly'

/ Source: The Associated Press

The furor surrounding President Barack Obama's plans to address the nation's school children is "just silly," Education Secretary Arne Duncan said Sunday.

Duncan's department has taken heat for proposed lesson plans distributed to accompany Tuesday's speech, and he acknowledged that a section on writing to the president about how students can help him meet education goals was poorly written. It has been changed.

Debate about conservative objections to the speech has dominated cable television and talk radio for several days, signaling again the stark divisions in the country both over politics and social issues.

Some opponents to the speech claim Obama would try to indoctrinate school children with what they call his "socialist" agenda.

"That's just silly. They can go to school. They can not watch. It's just, you know, going an 18-minute speech," Duncan said.

‘Put out by teachers, for teachers’
He said Obama had no intention beyond talking "about personal responsibility and challenging students to take their education very, very seriously."

Duncan said the guides distributed to schools "were put out by teachers, for teachers. And there is one that wasn't worded quite correctly. It was talking about helping the president hit his goal of having the highest percent of college graduates by 2020. He's drawn a line in the sand in that.

"We just clarified that to say write a letter about your own goals and what you're going to do to achieve those goals. So again it's really about personal responsibility and being accountable, setting real goals and having the work ethic to see them through," the secretary said.

Declaring that viewing the speech is "purely voluntary," Duncan said the hubbub is something "I frankly don't pay any attention to." Rather, he said, he is focused "laser-like" on the big problems in the U.S. education system.

The secretary said the speech text will be posted on the White House Web site on Monday "and people can have a look. Again this is all about the president challenging our young people to take responsibility for their education."

Duncan spoke on CBS"s "Face the Nation."