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Media in Bed With Big Ed: A Romance

Article by Bruce Deitrick Price

Summary: Statistics indicate a decline in the public schools. Curiously, the mainstream media do not aggressively ask: hey, what’s going on? You might suspect that media and education are in cahoots. You might guess that Media is now in bed with Big Ed. It seems to be a very abusive relationship. After all, Media used to have a deep love for literacy, language, and intellect. What happened?!

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The setting is an old Howard Johnson hotel in a seedy part of town. Media, still beautiful in a deathly, antique way, stares forlornly out a window with stained curtains. Big Ed, handsome in his demented stock broker way, sulks restlessly about the living room. He looks put upon. After a busy day of giving the locals developmentally-appropriate lessons, the last thing Big Ed wants to deal with is shilly-shallying over the rights of children.

“We talked about this one million times. The rights they got is the right to make nice together. The parents got a right to be quiet.”

Media shrugs tragically. She is long and thin in a slithery black gown that reaches almost to the frayed carpet. She is all pale skin and elegant bones. Media murmurs, “I know, I know…”

Big Ed raises his incredibly thick black eyebrows. His loud voice is like industrial sandpaper: “You are about to say…”

“But you know, Big Ed.”

“No, I don’t. I’m Big Ed, ha-ha, I don’t know nothing. Tell me.”

“Oh, well.” The sublimely malnourished Media sighs, “What happens to me if people can’t read?”

Big Ed laughs in his dark Satanic way, “Yeah, but ain’t the sex great?”

“Seriously, Big Ed.”

“I’m a serious as a life of darkness and despair because some poor sap can’t read.”

“Really, Big Ed. You shouldn’t joke about that.”

“Joke, hell. It’s my proudest moments.”

“But, Big Ed, I’m journalism. I’m freedom of the press. I’m words arranged beautifully and with point and vigor…”

“And a commitment to truth? Yada, yada. But you kissed all that goodbye when you got in bed with Big Ed. Admit it, you love the rough stuff.”

“That does it. I’m leaving.” The willowy, deeply literate but highly tragic Media turns toward a closet to pack her belongings.

Big Ed bellows: “Look out the window. You see the people down there?”

Media glides in her otherworldly way to a window. “Goons? From the union?”

“Beg your pardon, love. That’s the president and vice-president of the union. They don’t want you going nowhere.”

“Look at me, Big Ed. I’m wasting away to nothing. Nobody can read! Nobody knows where countries are. What use do they have for a newspaper?” “So let them watch TV. They still got ears, right? They can hear the pretty words.”

“Don’t you see? There’s a proud tradition, high-minded and intellectual. We’re in love with words, reporting the facts, investigative journalism…”

“Used to be in love. Long time ago. Come on, darling. Know what the problem is? You’re all complicated. One of these leftover delusional dames living large in the 19th century. But nutty and slutty in your soul. Otherwise, baby doll, you never got mixed up with me.”

“Yes! Because you proudly stand for darkness and ignorance. I know I must slit my wrists.”

Big Ed, wearing designer jeans and Green Day t-shrt, paces like a bull. He stops and hunches his thick shoulders. “Sure, sure. You’re waiting for Godot. When he gets here, ask him if he has some razor blades.”

Media raises her gaunt hands to heaven. “Ahhh. To think I lied for you. All those sordid details I covered up. I never reported the unpleasant stuff. All these little kids who can’t even read in the sixth grade. You did that.”

“Sixth grade? What are you talking? A lot of ’em can’t read ever. I’m working.”

“Big Bad Ed.”

Big Ed grins with grotesque contentment. “Ain’t that the truth?”

“You’ve become a brute, is all.”

“Please. Let’s not get all squishy. You were right there the whole time helping me out. What we were doing to each other, we was doing to the public. Oh, I like the sound of that.”

Media sighs, “Note that I cringe visibly.”

Big Ed goes to the kitchenette and fills two glasses with wine. Drinks one with gusto. Refills it. Carries one to Media. “You need this.”

She sips daintily. “I’m writing a play to be called the Amnesia Monologue.”

“Ha-ha! But you forgot what it’s about.”

“How many stars in the American flag? In what city is the Berlin Wall?”

“Somebody cares?”

“It’s about the way people used to knows the names of rivers and oceans. Mountains. Cities. Famous people. Heroes, Big Ed! People need heroes. The stuff that people used most, that’s what you took away from them, little by little.”

Big Ed’s brittle laugh rattles the old walls. “Hey, baby doll, let’s be honest. They gave up without a fight. They said, take it, I’d rather not be bothered.”

Media seems to wake from a violent dream. “Nobody gave up, Big Ed. They were asking all the time to be told what they needed to know. They wanted information. You wouldn’t give it to them. Nobody seeks amnesia.”

“That’s a crock. Works great for me. Hell, I know education used to be different. Don’t know how exactly. It was different. But who cares? It’s not like that anymore. We moved on. Get over it.”

Media holds up the glass for a refill. “I can name all the states. And the capitals.”

“How weird is that.”

“You’re not sentimental at all about the good old days?”

“Bad old days, you mean. A little knowledge is a dangerous thing. No knowledge, now that’s okay.”

I’m so sentimental. I’m like a Tennessee Williams character.”

“Who’s that?”

He presses the filled glass against her feverish cheek.

“A guy you used to teach about.”

“Yeah, well, screw him. We teach kids what they need to know. They all sit at little tables and shoot the breeze all day. A little touchy-feely, little grab ass, a little back and forth. Put the condoms on the cucumbers. You learn to get along with people. That’s all that matters.”

Media wails softly, “I was Dean’s List at J-School. I could juggle Who, When, What, Why and Where like the Cirque Du Soleil. A Pulitzer!”

“Talk English, okay.”

“I could have been a contender. I could have been somebody.”

“You crazy itch, you’re babbling. You got in bed with bed company. That’s me, I’m happy to say. Come on, show me something kinky.”

“Too much money and power. You grew into a monster.” Media shudders elaborately.

Big Ed ignores her. “And along comes the Internet. One, two, you’re down for the count. Look at you, only 90 pounds. You’re lucky I like ’em skinny. Probably I’m, you know, a freak what likes corpses. Ha-ha.'”

“Necrophiliac.”

“Whatever.”

“It’s true. I’m dying! I never should’ve gotten near you.”

“Not your problem, sourpuss. You’re dying because you’re a dinosaur. You got nothing people want.”

“I’m smart. I’m savvy. I’m cultured.” She sips the glass to the bottom. “I am Civilization with a capital C. I bring insights and wisdom to my readers.”

“Looks like the train stopped. And somebody forgot to get off.”

“No, Big Ed! We could turn it around! We could raise up the world.”

“I ain’t playing that game. Other than pretensions, what have you got?”

“Dreams of glory! I won’t let them go!”

“Go to the window, doll baby. See the lucky angels looking out for you. Make sure you don’t get mixed up with no highbrows.”

“What’s that, Big Ed? Someone who can count to 20?”

“Whoa, baby, still cracking those jokes. Turns me on. Seriously, we still got kids like that? What can count to 20? I must be losing a step. Ha-ha.”

“You’re a wrecking crew, Big Ed.”

“You know it, baby.”

I’m a million miles of melancholy. You’ve crushed everything that matters.”

“Face it, babe, you got tramp in your soul. Too much brains, nowhere to go but down.”

“People want the truth!”

“If most people had to face the truth or drop dead, who’s left standing? What’s kinky on your mind?”

“I presume you’d like to be the German Army knifing through Poland.”

“Didn’t we do that? Hey, what’s Poland?’ Big Ed makes a horrible strangling sound. “Ohh-umg, show me some thigh before I die.”

“Beg.”

“Do it.”

Media eases her black gown higher. “What kind of life is this, Big Ed?”

“I couldn’t be happier.”

“I’ll call the police.”

“I’ll invite ’em in. Let ’em watch.”

“Oh, Big Ed, I have no pride left.”

“Me, neither. What a fit.”

“You hate everything I care about.”

“Hey, that’s kind of, what’s that word?”

“Symmetrical.”

“You know everything but what counts.”

“What’s that, Big Ed?”

“Dumb ain’t so bad.”

(Coda: The inspiration for this fantasy: over many years, I noticed that my local paper doesn’t investigate educational failure. One could almost get the impression there was complicity. The New York Times once had this motto: “To give the news impartially, without fear or favor.” We’ll need a lot of that if we are going to improve the schools. For a related essay, see “38: Saving Public Schools” on Improve-Education.org.)

About the Author

Bruce Deitrick Price is the founder of Improve-Education.org, a high-level education and intellectual site. One focus is reading; see “42: Reading Resources.” Another focus is education reform; see “38: Saving Public Schools.”Price is an author, artist and poet. His fifth book is “THE EDUCATION ENIGMA–What Happened to American Education.”

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