The Wire as Teaching Tool

The Wire Season 1 PosterI was a big fan of the Wire, on HBO, from its first season, but didn’t keep up with it, and decided to wait and watch it on DVD instead. It’s a complex soap opera of a plot–one of the creator’s former colleagues referred to him as the “Balzac of the newsroom” in a conversation on the excellent Bryant Park Project, a complement guaranteed to induce snickering–and if you miss an episode, it’s easy to get lost. The characters are complex, engaging, and believable. The structure of crime, the police, and the politics certainly feels real, and although I don’t have enough experience to judge, those who do have suggested that it provides a good portrayal of the real operation of drug gangs.

Which makes me all the more excited about the new season, which tracks how the drug trade plays in the newsroom of the Baltimore Sun. Obviously, this is of more than merely entertainment interest to me, since we train journalists at my school. Others have already noted that the series is a great way to explain economic models (one of the characters attends econ classes at night, and deploys his new knowledge in his trade), I suspect that the upcoming season would make for a great organizing text on crime reporting. The question is always how much you can ask students to watch, depending on the density of teachable scenes. Perhaps a better way to go would be to teach a class on the Wire and on drugs in the community. Either way, I think it would be fun.

For now, I am watching the previous seasons to catch up–no spoilers in the comments please!

Audio: The Wire as Teaching Tool

Update: I suppose I could just watch all four seasons in four minutes, but I’m not sure that’s any less confusing, and I’m sure it’s not as fun.

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