Whatever Happened to GBN News?

As I was reading recently about the “retirement” of one of my favorite bloggers, I realized that I’ve been in kind of a “semi-retirement” from blogging myself. It’s been a few months since my last GBN News parody on this site, and it occurred to me that some people out there may be wondering if GBN News got bought out for a vast sum by Bill Gates or Rupert Murdoch, leaving me happily sunning myself on the beach at Michael Bloomberg’s Bahamas retreat.

No such luck! But, though GBN News remains firmly in my rather quirky little hands, I’ve been wondering myself why the stories aren’t “writing themselves” the way they used to.

Part of the reason, I think, is that Bloomberg et al have become such a parody of themselves that they may have rendered GBN News all but unnecessary. Never in my wildest imagination could I have come up with anything resembling the Cathie Black fiasco or the Rupert Murdoch scandal. It’s ironic: I used to whimsically worry that these folks would steal my ideas, but I never expected they would actually outdo them.

Partly, too, it’s become harder to joke about some of those people. Joel Klein was easy to parody. Dennis Walcott, however, seems more of a tragic figure than a comic one. Coming from a promising career in the Urban League among other endeavors, he has been co-opted by Bloomberg and will likely find his former integrity and reputation forever sullied by his association with the ed deform movement.

Whatever the reasons, it’s become clear to me that while I won’t rule out the occasional GBN parody on this blog if the mood strikes, it may be time for me to find other ways of making my voice heard. What that means, I’m not certain yet. I’ve been tempted to start my own blog to offer more serious commentary on a wider range of issues. But blogging can be rather addictive from what I’ve seen, and I’m not sure I’ve got the time to put into that right now.

What I do know is that whatever the broader issues, education remains critical. The more our public school kids are subjected to NCLB, Race to the Top, larger classes, incessant testing, and a transient, demoralized teaching force, the less their ability to think and to question. It may or may not be the manifest intent of the Billionaire Boys’ Club to render the next generation incapable of looking critically at Ed Deformers, Tea Partiers and the like. But it will certainly be the latent effect.

When I look at the crises the world faces today, I can’t help but wonder just what disasters could have been avoided if more of our citizens had been educated to be able to question the prevailing “wisdom” of the powers that be. We are expected to go along with their catch phrases and bogus “group think”: In education, “Lazy teachers with lifetime tenure are ruining our schools”; with national security, “They’re all out to get us”; on the economy, “No new taxes”; in the Mideast, “There’s no partner for peace”.

There’s another side to all this, but people are intimidated into accepting this way of thinking by accusations of being anything from “defenders of the status quo” to “un-American”. It is only through real education – instilling in our children the capacity for independent thinking and the courage to challenge, that our society will have any hope of avoiding the disastrous path down which we appear to be heading.

The best teacher I ever had, my high school social studies teacher, the late Horace Ports, not only invited us to challenge him, he demanded it. I can still hear him bellowing at the class, “Come on, what I just said was ridiculous, is there nobody in this class who recognizes that?”

I doubt that Mr. Ports would even last a year in today’s school system. And sadly, without teachers like that, our kids will not be able to tell fact from fiction, or parody from reality. GBN News stories might actually be taken as real. Political leaders will then start outdoing the parodies, and people will take them seriously. And … wait a minute, that’s what’s happening already. Hmmm, perhaps it really is time to “retire” GBN News.

Either way, GBN News or not, I’ll still be around - to comment, and to contribute occasionally, with discretion. There may be a few more parodies still waiting to be written. But you can’t be too careful what you say these days, or the ideas expressed may fall into the wrong hands.

-Gary Babad

PS: Rest assured that any future GBN News stories will always be posted on this site. I owe Leonie a huge debt of gratitude for allowing me to use this forum and promoting GBN News, and any educational satire I write will remain here. Of course, I think every parent in NY City owes Leonie a huge debt of gratitude for leading the fight for real education for our kids.

PPS: If, despite all those wild and wacky authentic education stories in the news, you’re still pining for more parody, there’s still plenty it around that’s actually intentional, and (in my opinion) often better than GBN:

One of my favorites is Last Stand for Children First

Then there’s Billionaires for Education Reform

On one of my other favorite blogs, sometimes you’ll find stories like http://nyceducator.com/2011/09/mayor4life-on-sharp-increase-in.html

Occasionally, Norm will post something like this: http://ednotesonline.blogspot.com/2010/11/ny-mets-were-set-to-choose-black-as.html

For general news parody, there’s always the Borowitz Report

And finally, one of the best education parody sites of all time: http://schools.nyc.gov/default.htm

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