Washington (CNN) – Modern education policy makes for strange bedfellows.
Current Education Secretary Arne Duncan and former Education Secretary William Bennett, agreed Tuesday that No Child Left Behind, a trademark initiative of former President George W. Bush, has caused some states to lower educational standards.
"We have dummied-downed standards," Duncan said on CNN's Situation Room. "It's our fault as adults. We've lowered the bar. We've had low expectations – not because it's the right thing educationally, not because it's the right thing for our economy. We did it because of political pressure."
Asked by CNN's Wolf Blitzer what he meant by "political pressure," Duncan blamed the previous administration's signature educational policy which created a regime of standardized testing as one of the major indicators of a school's success in educating kids.
"What we've seen under No Child Left Behind is – we saw many states actually reducing standards to respond to that political pressure. That's bad for children, bad for education. Wolf, we've been lying to children in our country."
Watch the interview after the jump:
The Obama education chief explained that the lower standards mean children are being told that they are meeting standards but end up barely able to complete high school and inadequately prepared for college.
"We have to stop lying," Duncan added.
Bennett, a conservative radio talk show host who served in the late President Reagan's administration, agreed with Duncan's critique. "Something like 15 to 18 states have lowered standards since [the passage of] No Child Left Behind," the Reagan-era education chief said.
Bennett added that the teachers' unions – longtime allies of the Democratic Party – have also exerted political pressure over educational standards.
"There is insufficient accountability," Bennett said referring to the resistance teachers' unions have shown to some educational reforms.
Later in the conservation, Blitzer asked Duncan if education policy might be one area where the administration could find common ground with conservatives.
"This is the one issue where all of us, regardless of politics and ideology, all of us, feel a huge sense of urgency," Duncan said.
He added, "This is the civil rights issue of our generation. There is also and economic imperative."
Once again, Bennett appeared to agree with Duncan.
"As I've said, we have our disagreements," Bennett said. "But, you know what? He's gotten into fights with the right people. As an old Irishman I think that's a pretty good sign."
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