Sharpton and Gingrich, Unlikely Allies, Talk Education

Reverend Al Sharpton, Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and Education Secretary Arne Duncan have teamed up for a national tour to spotlight education reform, and the trio stopped by "Washington Unplugged" Monday to discuss why their efforts to encourage cooperation on the issue.

"I think you guys think if nobody walks away [with] a black eye that we did not have a meeting," Sharpton joked to CBS News' Fernando Suarez.

"When you have Al Sharpton and Newt Gingrich show up to talk about an issue together you tend to get a lot more attention than if either one of us shows up buy oursleves," Gingrich said. "And that's led already around the country to a conversation about education reform."

The teamwork between Gingrich and Sharpton is meant to symbolize larger cooperation across the political spectrum.

"We are going to challenge everybody to work harder, to work in different ways, to stretch outside their comfort zones," Duncan said of his approach. He added that "we at the Department of Education have been part of the problem."

Said Gingrich: "I hope it is going to lead in the Congress to more receptiveness to a bipartisan approach to writing legislation."

Suarez asked Duncan if President Obama might have better captured the nation's support had he taken on education reform before the contentious issue of health care.

Duncan responded with a defense of his boss' commitment to education.

"I think he has made it a huge priority," he said. "And I have been amazed the other way that despite fighting two wars and the toughest economy since the depression and working so hard on health care, he continues to come back relentlessly week after week, month after month to education."

Pressed on his use of the word "mediocrity" to describe the nation's public schools, Duncan said, "I don't know if it's strong or weak, it's the truth. We have to get dramatically better."

Watch the full interview above.