Inside an 800-square-foot shop, D.C.-based social entrepreneur Ahmad Ashkar is using his Mom's falafel recipe to raise money for refugees.
D.C. tour guides will no longer need a license to tell you the architect who designed the White House was James Hoban and the Washington Monument weighs an estimated 100,000 tons. An appeals court panel ruled last week that a century-old law requiring aspiring tour guides to pass a 100-question test and pay a $200 licensing fee was too broad. Some professional guides are sorry to see the requirement go, pending appeal, while others say good riddance. We hear from both sides.
- Garrett Peck Author, "Capital Beer: A Heady History of Brewing in Washington, D.C."; licensed D.C. tour guide
- Jeanne Fogel D.C.-licensed, Certified Master Tour Guide; president, A Tour de Force; adjunct professor, Northern Virginia Community College; author, three books on Washington, D.C.’s social and architectural history
- Raynell Cooper Licensed D.C. tour guide, City Segway Tours; rising senior, George Washington University; champion, Teen Jeopardy
- Robert McNamara Staff Attorney, Institute for Justice
MR. KOJO NNAMDIWelcome back. Summer travel season is in full swing. And while local traffic on D.C.'s streets tend to thin out this time of year, the number of tourists pounding the pavement is typically up. While some turn to smart phones and guidebooks for information, many still rely on tour guides to give them the lay of the land and teach them about district history, tour guides who are required by law to pass 100-question multiple choice test on facts and figures before leading them along the mall. Or at least that was until an appeals court ruling threw out the city code requiring a license.
MR. KOJO NNAMDIThe decision will likely come up for appeal but if it sticks we'll undo a century old law, one that delights some and confounds others. Here to discuss it is Jeannie Fogel. She is a licensed -- D.C.-licensed certified master tour guide, lecturer and president of A Tour de Force, Inc. Jeanne Fogel, thank you for joining us.
MS. JEANNE FOGELThank you very much for inviting me.
NNAMDIGarrett Peck is a literary journalist, independent historian and D.C.-licensed tour guide. His latest book is "Capital Beer: A Heady History of Brewing in Washington, D.C." Garrett, good to see you again.
MR. GARRETT PECKSame here. Thanks so much, Kojo.
NNAMDIAnd Robert McNamara is a senior attorney with the Institute for Justice which is a libertarian law firm. Robert McNamara, thank you for joining us.
PECKThanks very much for having me.
NNAMDIIf you have questions or comments about this, in your view should tour guides be licensed? What should a test gauging their fitness cover? And if so, what -- if not, why not, 800-433-8850? You can send email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Do you take group tours when you travel? What do you look for in a guide? Or why do you avoid guides? Garrett, since the experience of taking the D.C. tour guide licensing test, my understanding, is fresh in your mind, we'll start with you. What's on the test and why have people who want to offer tours like yourself had to take it?
PECKYeah, the -- I've actually led tours for a number of years as a volunteer tour guide. And you're -- to be a volunteer you didn't have to have a license at all in the city. You could just lead a tour whenever you wanted to. As -- I got to a certain point though where groups started asking me, hey, can we pay you to lead the tours? And I got Politics and Prose asked me if I would lead the temperance tour. And so at that point I went out and decided, I'll get my license. So I took the test actually about a month ago, so I'm probably one of the last people to actually take the exam.
NNAMDISo did you study and what kind of questions are on the test?
PECKI studied my tuckus off for this exam. It was hundreds of questions that were on it, many of which were, I have to say, facts and figures about the city. And particular about the federal city. That was really, I think, the fairly limiting part of the test. It was really heavily focused upon the area around the mall. And so I probably studied for well over a week, you know, stayed home and just first time I'd taken an exam I think since 1986, you know. And I really had to study hard for it.
NNAMDIA lot of angst there.
PECKYeah, I wanted to pass and I did.
NNAMDIRobert McNamara, this requirement for guides to be licensed has been on the books for over a century. Who did you represent in this case and why did they file suit to challenge the law?
MR. ROBERT MCNAMARAWe represented Tanya Edwards and Bill Main who own and operate Sex and the City which is a segue-based tour company here in Washington, D.C. And they had basically two objections. One was an objection to principle that they believe in free speech. And they think that in this country people should be entitled to decide who they want to listen to. And we shouldn't allow the government to decide who's going to be allowed to speak. And they thought the tour guide license just turned that principle on its head.
MR. ROBERT MCNAMARABut they also thought the licensing exam wasn't a good way to get good tour guides. They like to hire history students and graduate students on their summer break. And they would rather those students spend their time focusing on getting good at particular tour routes that they're going to lead rather than studying a particular set of facts and figures that the government has decided is more important than that. And so for those two reasons they filed the First Amendment law suit.
NNAMDIAnd the Court of Appeals ruling was made on the basis of the free speech argument you think or on the basis of the appropriateness of the questions?
MCNAMARAIt was absolutely based just on the free speech argument, not on any particular question on the test.
NNAMDIThat's my understanding. Jeanne Fogel, multiple generations of your family have lived in Washington, D.C. And you offer tailored tours of the city. As someone who knows, someone who shares the history of the district, what do you see as the value of the licensing process?
FOGELI think the licensing process helps individuals like (word?) to get a foundation of knowledge. They have to study. They have to learn about a lot of things which, at the moment, may not seem all that important when you take the test. And actually you only have to get 70 out of 100 right out of a possible 500 questions.
NNAMDIGarrett is a perfectionist. You should know this.
FOGELBut Garrett -- I don't know -- Garrett got 100 out of 100. But I think that people take great pride once they have received that license. And it forms a foundation of knowledge for them that they can build upon if they're going to take guiding seriously.
NNAMDIIn the decision on this issue, one of the judges asked, what have the historic knowledge tested has to do -- what having the historic knowledge tested has to do with running a reputable business. If this licensing requirement stays out on appeal, what, if anything, would you like to see in its place, starting with you Jeanne?
NNAMDIIf not the current test, if not this current arrangement, what would you like to see?
FOGELRight. Well, you know, I would be very happy to have a different type of test that would be more practical to the knowledge that guides need. Tour guides in Washington need overall knowledge. They need to know more than just site specific things because they give knowledge -- or they give -- excuse me, they give tours all over the city. They're asked questions about things that relate to things they're talking about. People come with their own understanding of the city or maybe they're coming from another country and they don't understand certain basic government functions or historical individuals.
FOGELSo a guide has to have a tremendous amount of knowledge so that they can edit that down and tailor it to the particular individuals to whom they're giving the tour.
NNAMDISame question to you, Garrett. If this licensing agreement goes away, what would you like to see in its place?
PECKI think one of the things that certainly was not on the test that I think is the most relevant thing of all, which is tour guide behavior and how to deal with a large audience of people. Like there's a certain skill set you need that goes beyond knowledge to be a tour guide. You have to be really good with people. You have to be able to be a good storyteller because ultimately tour guiding is telling stories.
NNAMDIYou won't bore me to death.
PECKYeah, exactly. Don't just recite facts and figures because that goes in one ear and right out the other one, you know. So understanding that, you know, your tour guide tends to go on auto pilot, that the people who are on the tour just kind of, you know, lunge up the sidewalk, not paying attention to the fact that there's other passersby. You know, those kind of things that a tour guide has to constantly shepherd people through the process.
PECKSo I kind of wonder, for example, if we do away with the licensing aspect, with the fee and so on, perhaps a replacement might be an orientation towards here's what you need to learn how to be a guide. And that might be something that we could possibly put in place.
NNAMDI800-433-8850 is our number if you have questions or comments for us. Would you or have you hired a personal tour guide? Tell us why and how you found that guide if so, 800-433-8850. You can send email to email@example.com. Robert McNamara, this test and freedom of speech issues aside, do you think there should be some kind of regulation on this industry at all?
MCNAMARAI don't know that there necessarily needs to be. I mean, almost every city in the United States regulates tour guides exactly the same way they regulate standup comedians, which is to say they don't. And they rely on people to decide who they want to listen to. But if you want to have some kind of regulation in place, there's no obstacle to the city having some kind of voluntary certification where you can have exactly the same test. And if you pass the test and pay the fee you get to wear a special badge and tell people you're a D.C. certified tour guide.
MCNAMARABut what I think is important is people like Garrett should absolutely have the right to decide whether or not studying for that test is important to them. And they should be able to tell their audience either, I decided to take this test or I didn't think this test was important, so I didn't get certification. And then the audience can decide, I want to take a temperance tour or I really don't want to take a temperance tour with a guy who hasn't passed a multiple choice test. That decision should be Garrett's and it should be the audience's.
NNAMDIHere is Richard in Alexandria, Va., speaking of the audience. Richard, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
RICHARDHey, thank you, Kojo. Great to hear my friends Jeanne and Garrett today. As the marketing manager for Alexandria Colonial Tours across the river, we offer a -- operate historic tours, African American history tours and of course our ghost and graveyard tour. And although all of our guides, myself included, have to be tested on the history and the stories and the background of old town before anybody hits the road, they have to actually do a test tour.
RICHARDThey actually have to go with somebody more senior that can actually determine the quality of the product because as a tour operator, although across the river, we are ultimately responsible for the guests' experience and satisfaction. And that's my point. Against not only the written test but actually the practical knowledge, which of course Mrs. Fogel offers. And I know Garrett does as well. But that kind of guiding and direction where you have an actual experience and you know what the product's going to be.
RICHARDAnd of course, everybody tells stories differently. Everybody has different things that they want to share with the group. Some is more appropriate with one group than with another group. And that's what my point would be, is something more hands on or before the rubber hits the road, so to speak.
NNAMDIAre you required to be licensed over there in Alexandria?
RICHARDNot now, no, sir.
NNAMDISo this is a voluntary sort of test that you take?
RICHARDExactly, within our organization because there are more than 40 guides on our team at any point throughout the year. And so the president of our company is ultimately responsible for the product that he offers to our guests.
NNAMDIOkay. Thank you very much for your call, Richard. Apparently you know just about everybody on this panel.
NNAMDIHere is Millie in Washington, D.C. Millie, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
MILLIEHi, Kojo. Great. Thanks for taking my call.
MILLIEI just wanted -- oh, sorry -- I just wanted to say that I disagree with the comparison to the comedians. I think it's more apt to a realtor or an attorney that everyone has to take a licensing exam, pass the bar exam. Sometimes, you know, I can see how maybe the exam in the current format listed to 100 questions around the federal area, may not work now. But -- and I agree that sometimes you need like a personality test and crowd control test, how they handle meeting new people.
NNAMDIBut you think there needs to be some form of certification, even if the test is, I guess, structured differently.
MILLIEExactly because these people are representing our city. So we're -- you know, I'm trying to think of people who are coming from around the nation and around the world that this is their first introduction. So I would want them to have a tour guide who is professional and knowledgeable about the city and its history.
NNAMDIWell, Robert McNamara, Millie makes the point that people are not coming here for laughs and therefore they don't make their decision on the basis of who's funnier. They're coming here for hard, reliable information.
MCNAMARAWell, I think people come here for a lot of reasons, and the best judge of why people come here are probably the people who are coming here. And I think attorney regulation is actually a great example. I needed to have a license to file my briefs with the court in this case but I don't need a license to do this radio show. And I wouldn't need a license to go out on the sidewalk and just tell people things about the First Amendment. And that's because the government doesn't regulate just talking to people because you have a First Amendment right just to communicate with people and tell them what you think. And they can decide for themselves whether they want to listen to you.
NNAMDIJeanne Fogel, the Washington Post pointed out that there has not been one single citation written for a guide operating without a license since 2005. So if the city is not enforcing the requirement, what's the value of the license if no one is checking whether or not people have it?
FOGELI think the license is still very important.
NNAMDIIt's just that the city didn't put in any money for enforcement.
FOGELRight. Exactly. And that's -- I mean, that's -- you know, that's what we have to deal with. But just to do away with the licensing does away with the profession of tour guiding. And it is a profession. We are educators. We're like teachers. And when we're with a group of students, we are teachers. And teachers have to be licensed. Guides have to be licensed. If you are going to pay for a service, then you should know what you're getting. You should have the comfort of knowing that you're paying an expert and not somebody who's standing on the street talking about First Amendment rights.
NNAMDIOn the other hand, Garrett, there are those who would argue that since there have been no citations, this is a solution looking for a problem, that there is no problem.
PECKI sometimes feel that way, yeah. Generally consumers these days when they have an issues, oftentimes they won't take it to the city. They'll take it to Twitter or they'll take it to Yelp. And word gets around very, very quickly if you are a good tour guide or a bad tour guide. And so I think there are some -- because of technology there are ways now that -- you know, that people hear about whether things are good or bad, or do you want to join this tour. There's a whole word-of-mouth functionality around successful touring, you know.
NNAMDIHere is Raymond in Baltimore, Md. Raymond, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
RAYMONDHow you doing, Kojo? I actually am an attorney so I don't think the attorney comparison holds up. I mean, you're talking about very serious business. People's legal rights. And not to disparage tour guides, but it's just not the same level of competency with the -- compared to the level of damage that could be done. But I do have a question for the proponents, the proponents of licensure. Would they accept a compromise where tour guides could get licensed, but it wouldn't be required to practice.
RAYMONDAnd let the consumers decide, well, I'd rather have a certified tour guide tour me, as opposed to an uncertified tour guide, and kind of let the market forces push people into that certification without it being a legal requirement, and then still vindicate the first amendment.
NNAMDISo you can say on the one hand, I am an certified tour guide, as opposed to on the other hand, I'm Kramer, you know me, I know this city. What do you think about that, Garrett? A voluntary certification.
PECKYeah. Again, yeah, I'm of -- probably of several different minds of this. I'm not certain that consumers are really aware of the issue. Most people, they come to the city, they just want to take a tour. They want something interesting, they want to hear some interesting stories, they want to see sights they haven't heard before, and they've heard from their friends that this other guy recommended that this is a good tour to go take. So that's a large part of it.
PECKA large number of the tours as well, especially like in the springtime, when all the student groups get here, they are -- tour guides have relationships with particular schools and they will represent that school year after year after year. So it, you know, represents the fact that they have a good relationship between them, and that's...
NNAMDIRobert McNamara, can you talk about what Philadelphia's doing?
MCNAMARAWell, Philadelphia actually does exactly this. In 2008, Philadelphia passed a tour guide licensing law and when it was challenged by the Institute for Justice, they announced they weren't going to enforce mandatory licensing. And so local guides in Philadelphia started a private organization called The Association of Professional Tour Guides that provides voluntary certification and is actually much more in depth than anything D.C. does.
MCNAMARAThere's continuing education, and a lecture series, and it's exactly the situation where consumers can decide for themselves whether or not they care about this, whether or not they want to go with a guide who's been undergoing continuing education. And it turns out in Philadelphia, a lot of consumers do care, but if it turns out consumers don't care about the knowledge level of the person who's talking to them, it's not the government's role to force consumers to be more discerning and to care about speakers that the government cares about that they don't want to listen to.
NNAMDIGot to take a short break, when we come back, we'll continue this conversation on tour guide licensing. You can call us at 800-433-8850 with your comments or questions. Have you ever been on a tour here or elsewhere and thought the guide was getting it, well, wrong? How did you handle it? 800-433-8840, you can send email to firstname.lastname@example.org. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
NNAMDIWelcome back to our conversation on tour guide licensing. We're talking with Robert McNamara, he's a senior attorney with the Institute for Justice, a libertarian law firm. Garrett Peck is a literary journalist, independent historian, and D.C. licensed tour guide now. His latest book is "Capital Beer: A Heady History of Brewing in Washington, D.C." And Jeanne Fogel is a D.C. licensed certified master tour guide lecturer, and president of A Tour de Force Incorporated.
NNAMDIAnd we need her to validate this email we got from Mike, who says, "as a former resident and cab driver in D.C., I can tell you that one of the reasons for licensing tour guides stems from the days that cab drivers could charge more hourly if they had the license, and were taking people on tour." Is that true, Jeanne?
FOGELWell, I don't know that it stems from that. licensing I think goes back -- and we were talking about this -- goes back to the '30s. But...
NNAMDIThere was a time when cab drivers could charge more...
JOANNABut I do believe that licensed guides who were also cab drivers could charge more.
NNAMDIWell, who knew? Joining us now by phone is Raynell Cooper. He is a rising senior at George Washington University and licensed D.C. guide with City Segway Tours. He's also a teen "Jeopardy" champion and a former Kojo show intern, which explains why he's rising. But I digress. Ray, thank you for joining us.
MR. RAYNELL COOPERGood to be here, good to be here, Kojo.
NNAMDIRay, as a "Jeopardy" champ and Quiz Bowl coach, you have an exhibited knack for remembering information. Is that what inspired you to become a tour guide?
COOPERYeah, I think that there's certain type of people who are just more inclined to be interested in that sort of stuff. I've always absorbed books, absorbed the internet, absorbed what's around me, and I've always been a huge fan of that. Plus, I love people. Just, that's a huge part of it, too. A tour guide's not just about the information, it's never just about being an almanac, it's also about interacting with people, tailoring your tour to who you have on your tour, if somewhere they're from, based on their backgrounds.
COOPERJust kind of building that relationship and building a total experience for them. So it's -- the information's definitely a great foundation, and if you're not that type of person, you wouldn't be a great tour guide. But you also kind of have to have that other aspect as well, building the whole experience.
NNAMDII took a ride with you down the Anacostia River last year, and I was amazed at how much you seem to know. I said, how does this kid know all this stuff? Now I understand why. Some tour guides and historians report that even licensed guides don't always get it right. How do you handle the pressure to always have a ready answer for visitors? I'll start with you, Ray, and then ask our other guests.
COOPERWell, there's a few different problems with it. There's a lot of times, there's a lot of questions about what's exactly right. There's sort of the urban legend versus facts question. There's a lot of places where some facts are reported one way, and then the other. But if it's something that a tourist asks, it really depends on if it's something that you feel like you should know or not. Like if you're going down Pennsylvania Avenue, someone points to a random office building. I don't feel that bad telling them I don't know what it is.
COOPERBut I generally, I really try not to ever lie on a tour, I've never done that. So I usually am -- it's beyond us to -- it's not beyond us to say, I don't know, on something like that.
NNAMDIJeanne Fogel, how do you always have a ready answer for visitors?
FOGELMy favorite game is stump the tour guide. I love to be in a position where I'm asked a question where I don't know the answer, because then, that forces me to find out more, which is what guiding is all about, is you never, ever stop learning. But no, I try and know 100 times more than anything I have to say, just because I love the knowledge, I love the city, and I think tour guides should be experts. And they are expected to be.
PECKYeah, I agree as well. There are times where you'll be asked a question that you simply just don't know the answer, and I think it's better -- you're best off to saying, oh, I don't know the answer to that. Like, I'll go learn more about it. The wrong thing to do is to make up an answer.
PECKBecause now you've now contributed to the mythology of D.C., and that's not a good thing.
NNAMDIWhat's your favorite bit of D.C. trivia?
PECKOh, favorite bit of D.C. trivia. Well, I lead the temperance tour. And I just love the fact that we have a Temperance Fountain, which almost everyone -- I always start off the tour asking people, how many -- we start at the fountain itself, and I always ask everyone, how many of you all have ever seen this fountain before, and by the way, it's right by Archives. It's right at Seventh and Penn. And everyone is like, I've never seen this before, but you've all walked past it, right?
PECKAnd they're like, yeah, hundreds of times, you know. It's just incredible, we have this amazing Temperance Fountain, that everyone has forgotten about, and no one notices anymore.
NNAMDII was about to say, things that we walk past all the time, and don't see. Your favorite bit of D.C. trivia, Jeanne Fogel?
FOGELIt's hard to have a favorite.
NNAMDIThere are too many.
FOGELIt's like having a favorite kid, you know what I mean? Can't do that.
NNAMDIOr just throw out any one.
FOGELI think because we're coming up on the anniversary of the "Star Spangled Banner," it's always fun to drive by Francis Scott Key Memorial Park in Georgetown and say, do you see that flag? Do you see how many stars there are? Do you see how many stripes there are? 15 and 15. It's not a regular American flag.
NNAMDIWow. Any for you, Ray?
COOPERYou know, there's a lot. I mean, D.C. has a lot of really just interesting history. I -- there's a fact that I was just doing some research a few days ago and learning that the Statue of Jackson in Lafayette Park was actually the first bronze sculpture created in the United States. The architect Clark Mills actually had to start his own bronze foundry off Pennsylvania Avenue to get that one built. So I think that's kind of interesting, just the history of that statue right there.
NNAMDIHere's Eric in Washington, D.C. Eric, you are on the air, go ahead please.
ERICThank you. I wanted to make a point about living history, and I'll try to be brief. I was an Air BnB host, which has its own set of controversies, for over 500 guests from over 50 countries. And we would walk by the tour guides, and they were giving accurate information, but I didn't -- it wasn't passionate, wasn't the eyes dilated, you know, hair sticking up on your skin. I think there's a place for living history, and I wanted to talk about that very briefly.
ERICI think there's -- it's very important to be able to have certified tour guides, the schools and groups that need that level of rigor can choose. But you also need to be able to supplement that with, you know, if you're at the War Memorial for the Korean War, which I love because it's really our only depiction of war as scary, as opposed to celebrated. You want to be able to have somebody who says, I served. And you want to be able to have that first person account of somebody who may not necessarily be interested in pulling that together.
ERICAnd for disclosure, I tried to start a tour service doing that, but was very much discouraged by the licensing requirement, because if they're not enforcing now, they might start next year, and that's too much of a risk to start a new business and create those jobs.
NNAMDIRobert McNamara, does that underscore the point that you were trying to make here?
MCNAMARAI think that's exactly right. The biggest problem with making people pass a government mandated multiple choice test before they can lead tours is that it puts the government in the position of deciding what's important and what's not. And someone who's a Korean veteran or a Vietnam war veteran or who marched with Dr. Martin Luther King, may have a wonderful tour to give, and they shouldn't be forced to study up on things they don't plan to talk about, if they just want to talk about their own experience in the areas where they are incredibly knowledgeable.
NNAMDIOkay, let's go to Bill in Washington, D.C., who identifies himself as an (word?) in this case. Bill, your last name, please?
BILLHey, Kojo, this is Bill (word?) and I think Robert will vouch for me.
NNAMDIHe has already. He's vouched for you. But what's your point, Bill?
BILLMy point is that...
NNAMDIWell please tell us about the service that you run.
BILLWell, the service that we offer is Segway Tours of Washington, D.C. We also serve in Baltimore and Annapolis, but that's not relevant to this discussion. And we provide a means of moving around the city as an alternative to other means of doing so. And we offer commentary and what would we say, historical facts and trivia whilst we're doing so. And as I said, we should not dismiss or downplay the fundamental reason why this case was won on appeal, that is the infringement of the First Amendment.
BILLIt is also significant to bring to light the practicalities of this. Now some of your guests are avid proponents of the licensing law and we respect that. And we maybe should have a difference in types of tours, because what we offer is not an in depth historical tour, we offer a fun thing to do. But because of the law the way it is written, we were included into this group of needing to have a license, and maybe it's time for change.
NNAMDIThank you very much for your call, Bill. Ray, as a guide, you lead Segway tours and that's what Bill's company also is involved in. How much of a learning curve for this job was about the practical act of operating and leading a tour, specific to that mode of transit, rather than the history aspect of things?
COOPERWell, I do think that, you know, learning the Segways and learning -- the park service is very particular about what precise paths on the National Mall and whatnot. But Segways are allowed on it. And you have to, of course, learn how to ride a Segway. That's pretty easy. Learn how to train. That only takes about an hour to really learn all the ins and outs of the training and how to handle and troubleshoot, all of that.
COOPERBut I take a little issue with the point that Bill raised of it not being a historical tour, and I think that people do come for this fun way to ride around, and I think that's a big part of the Segway experience, the Segway Tour experience, but the history part is, I think, just as important and I think people, especially people who come in -- some people come on the Segway tours -- all they do -- I still think they do want to learn some of the interesting stories and some of the straight facts about the Capitol Dome, about the Lincoln Memorial, and I think that's what makes the tour a lot more interesting.
COOPERYou learn all of this. Plus, you have to -- if you are gonna talk about these places, which you'll get asked questions about it, you do have to make sure that what you say is right, and I think the licensing process really helps with that.
NNAMDIRobert, we're running out of time, but a ruling doesn't always mean that a case is closed. What is the next step from here, is an appeal likely?
MCNAMARAThat's in the hands of the District of Columbia. The only court that can overrule the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals is the Supreme Court of the United States, so their next step would be to try to take the case there and we would be more than happy to meet them there.
NNAMDIHere's Bianca in Largo, Md. Bianca, we only have about a minute or two left in the broadcast. Go ahead, please.
BIANCAMy name is Bianca Floyd, I'm a former museum director of a historic site called Poplar Hill on His Lordship's Kindness. I'm trying to start a business offering specialty tours on African-American history -- starting in Prince George's County, moving into the District. Now, as I studied for this exam, one of the things that I found wholly missing was information on African-American contributions to the city.
BIANCAI don't see that. I see more facts and figures and not context. I've been doing this for over 30 years. Can you speak to that, because, you know, it's one thing to tell people, spend $200 for a test, and another thing to spend $200 for a test which does not take into the full breadth of the history of the city, including the contributions of African-Americans and Prince George's County, which did give significant amounts of land to the city for it to come into existence.
NNAMDIJeanne I should mention that you are also a professor of Washington history and regional tour guiding and managing at Northern Virginia Community College. What do you think...
NNAMDI...about what Bianca just had to say?
FOGELAnd I do want to say also, a founding member of the guild, Professional Tour Guides. And through the guild, we have continuing education courses that are fantastic, and they do focus on things that are left out from the exam. There are 500 questions on the exam, and I understand that a computer actually randomly chooses which questions you happen to get on any particular time of -- any particular test that you take at any time. So you may get a test that has more questions on African-American history or one that has less.
NNAMDIRay, as with any group you need to work to get into, it seems there's a bit of a cache associated with being a licensed guide. What kind of side benefits are there to passing this test and making it official?
COOPERWell, you have a license and you can put that on your resume, it shows a lot of initiative with that. But also, you get more tickets to the Washington Monument if you need to take a tour group there, you get free entry into a lot of the paid museums, including the Newseum, 'cause that way, you talk about those on the tour. So there's little things like that as well that really kind of go along with it.
COOPERI'm not a 100 percent proponent of the current system. I do think $200 is a bit much, but I'm a fan of -- I love being able to have a tour guide license as a physical thing that shows that I've taken this test and I've done that.
NNAMDIWe'll have to see what happens with it in the future, 'cause we're out of time. Raynell Cooper is a senior at George Washington University and a licensed D.C. guide with City Segway Tours. Ray, thank you for joining us.
COOPERThank you. Robert McNamara's a senior attorney with the Institute for Justice, a libertarian law firm. Thank you for joining us.
MCNAMARAThanks for having me.
NNAMDIGarrett Peck is a literary journalist, independent historian, and D.C. licensed tour guide. His latest book is "Capital Beer: A Heady History of Brewing in Washington, D.C." Thank you for joining us, Garrett.
PECKThank you, Kojo.
NNAMDIAnd Jeanne Fogel is a D.C. licensed certified master tour guide leader, lecturer, and president of A Tour de Force Incorporated. She's also the author of three books on Washington, D.C. Thank you for joining us.
NNAMDIThank you all for listening. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
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