Doug Cohen: Why certain classes should tune into ‘The Wire’

I was recently discussing with a friend why the HBO show “The Wire” was without a doubt the greatest TV show ever produced. Aired from 2003 to 2008, the show depicts various elements of Baltimore society, like the drug trade, crime, labor issues, the education system and the political and bureaucratic institutions.

Fans of “The Wire” even include President Barack Obama, who said it was his favorite show in an interview with the Las Vegas Sun.

A recent Washington Post op-ed by two Harvard professors noted that some colleges are incorporating the show into certain classes. They are teaching “The Wire” in their class about inequality because of its realistic portrayal of urban life and the web of complex issues in American cities. Professors at Duke University, University of California, Berkeley, and Middlebury College are also including “The Wire” in their classes for the same reasons, according to Slate magazine.

The lessons that “The Wire” provides are infinite and immeasurable. Given “The Wire’s” potential as an invaluable teaching tool, GW should follow suit and have a class that incorporates the lessons the show teaches us.

The show can be used as a tool for those who wish to explore the sociological and psychological principles that govern urban society. Through its detailed characters, the show portrays the lives of numerous individuals who struggle to survive impoverished circumstances. We can see how the forces of underprivileged schools, dangerous drugs, high crime and a lack of economic opportunity interact with each other to create and perpetuate urban inequality.

Unlike strictly academic works, according to Anmol Chaddha and William Julius Wilson – the professors who wrote the aformentioned Washington Post op-ed – “The Wire” is able to “weave together the range of forces that shape the lives of the urban poor.” It also provides an absolute and comprehensive exposé of urban life.

The scope and depth that “The Wire” uses to examine urban America is simply unparalleled. “The Wire” is the perfect teaching tool for sociologists, social anthropologists and psychologists who are studying the world and the livelihood of those who are often ignored in society.

Another issue that “The Wire” deconstructs is education. As we search for ways to cure our ailing public education system, “The Wire” can provide insight into problems and potential solutions.

By examining certain innovative teaching styles and remedial programs for students, we can begin to get a sense of the possibility for educators to truly impact the lives of students. The messages of “The Wire” should be preached in D.C., as both cities have similar demographics in terms of crime, education and poverty levels.

Detective Jimmy McNulty, a character on the show, once remarked, “shit never changes.” Despite the promise of “a new day” with the election of new mayors, governors and presidents, for some, life remains the same.

“The Wire” is an attempt to provide a candid, uncensored portrait of the lives of the most disadvantaged members of society. Its realistic portrayal of societal ills that plague our citizens can provide lessons to everyone, especially students at GW.

-The writer is a sophomore majoring in political science.

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