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Ohanian Comment: I kept telling myself to 'lighten up' as I read this, but I found both the questions and the answers offensive. Sorry, but there just isn't anything even slightly amusing about U. S. Department of Education policy or policy makers. Solomon asked a couple of almost-good questions and then let Spellings get away with her Texas non-answers. So what was the point of this intrview? And why did the New York Times publish it?

Interview

Q: Should I call you Secretary?

I've been called worse, as we say in Texas.

Are you concerned about the rebellion against No Child Left Behind, the federal act that tries to improve school accountability by requiring states to test kids every year? Utah just announced that it doesn't want your money -- it wants to be left alone.

That's their prerogative. But if I were a Hispanic mom in Utah, I sure would want an explanation as to why we left $76 million on the table and my kid is not being well served.

What I find odd is that in 1980, President Reagan famously promised to abolish the Department of Education, and now Republicans are taking the opposite stance, reinventing the department to police education at the local level.

I think that in those two decades the American people and the political leadership have come to an understanding that if we don't close this achievement gap, it's going to be very detrimental to our democracy and our economic development and so on and so forth.

That's all true, but what do assessment tests really measure, other than an ability to memorize for tests?

You hear about that kind of thing. With respect to my own children, I do think people have to have a fluency with facts. You need to know what four times four is.

Time for a pop quiz. Can you tell us the capital of Illinois?

Uh. Springfield?

Correct.

Phew. That was a close one.

What's the capital of Wyoming?

Cheyenne or Cody. (Long pause.) Cheyenne.

Yes, it's Cheyenne, which I know because I watch ''Jeopardy!''

Me, too. I'm a big ''Jeopardy!'' fan. Love it! In fact I was so annoyed when Christie Todd Whitman and Ari Fleischer got to go on ''Jeopardy!''

I'm sure you could get on, if you tried.

Maybe so. I worry that the category will be sports, and I'll get them all wrong.

I think it's admirable not to know about sports, although how did you rise so high in the world of Republican politics without knowing about football?

Well, you have to learn enough to get by. But it's not something I love to do or watch.

What do you make of the current controversy in Kansas over whether creationism should be taught along with evolution?

I can tell you that in Texas we did go through this issue, when Bush was governor and I was working for him. We ended up -- the curriculum says basically that both points of view are taught from a factual basis.

How can creationism be taught from a factual basis? Are you implying that events in the Bible should be taught in the public schools as literal history?

I'm not implying anything. I'm just saying that my recollection from my Texas days is that both points of view were presented.

You've been called an earth-mother Republican.

I'm from Austin, Tex. There are a lot more earth mothers per capita in Austin, Tex., than there are in Washington, D.C., or Alexandria, Va.

How would you define an earth mother?

Oh, I nursed my daughters for a year and nine months -- one for a year and one for nine months. And I used cloth diapers and made my own baby food, and I didn't put my kids on a bunch of antibiotics.

Do you think children should be allowed to watch television during the week?

You mean at school?

No, at home.

The president says, and I completely agree, to read as much as you watch TV. If you watch TV for an hour, then you read for an hour.

Does the president have a nickname for you?

Yes. It's Margarita.

Is that something you like to drink?

I do.

With salt?

Frozen, no salt. Although my own self, I'm a little salty, as you can tell.

— Deborah Solomon
New York Times
2005-05-22
http://www.nytimes.com/2005/05/22/magazine/22QUESTIONS.html?


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