Wait Wait...Don't Tell Me!
Sat April 20, 2013
Secretary Of Education Arne Duncan Plays Not My Job
This segment was originally broadcast on March 8, 2013.
Arne Duncan is President Obama's secretary of education, and if, while he's on this show, a disaster befalls the president, the vice president, the speaker of the House and every other member of the Cabinet except Veterans Affairs and Homeland Security, he would be president.
We've invited Duncan to play a game called "Now, don't be fresh ... I just take dictation!" Three questions for the secretary of education about the education of secretaries.
CARL KASELL: From NPR and WBEZ-Chicago, this is WAIT, WAIT...DON'T TELL ME!, the NPR News quiz. I'm Carl Kasell. And here again is your host, at the Chase Bank Auditorium in downtown Chicago, Peter Sagal.
PETER SAGAL, HOST:
Thank you, Carl.
SAGAL: We've had some guests we've enjoyed so much, we invited them back, and when they wouldn't answer our phone calls, we just decided to replay the tapes of their last visit.
KASELL: It's pathetic, but it works.
SAGAL: We've gotten the extended version of our interview with former Vice President Al Gore, coming up. But first, a few weeks ago, the Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, visited our theater here in Chicago. And like so many before him, he ran into the buzz saw; that is, Paula Poundstone.
PAULA POUNDSTONE: I really feel that the American education system needs to have a second crack at my 22-year-old.
POUNDSTONE: Just let her try it again. Just...
ARNE DUNCAN: We'll take her back. We'll take her back.
POUNDSTONE: You know...
DUNCAN: Lots of second chances, lots of second chances.
POUNDSTONE: Yeah. When she was a junior, my other daughter was a freshman in high school the same year, and neither one had a writing assignment the entire year as of March. As of March, they had not had a writing assignment. And so, I went to the school principal. Now, in fairness to him, I talked on many subjects that day.
SAGAL: I find that hard to believe, Paula.
POUNDSTONE: Yeah, it was.
SAGAL: You're normally so concise and to the point.
POUNDSTONE: And I had on Depends, so I could go.
POUNDSTONE: But I did say to him, I told him this thing about neither kid having a written assignment in English. And he said to me, and I quote, "What do you want me to do about it?"
POUNDSTONE: And I was so stunned that I didn't - you know, it seemed self-evident, and so I had not prepared a plan.
POUNDSTONE: And I just sort of backed out of the room. And later, I saw him, our school principal at the time, accompanying the high school orchestra on his pan flute one night. And I thought, you know, it's got to be that I'm not the only parent who's complaining they don't teach writing here. It's got to be that another parent went in and complained and that when he said to them what do you want me to do about it...
POUNDSTONE: ...they, shocked as I was, blurted out play the pan flute.
POUNDSTONE: It is the only logical explanation.
SAGAL: Secretary Duncan...
SAGAL: ...do you have kids?
POUNDSTONE: Did you have something to say, Peter?
(LAUGHTER) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.