Why We’re Teaching ‘The Wire’ at Harvard

14 Sep 2010

HBO’s [now] critically acclaimed show ‘The Wire’ has received a lot of traction in collegiate classrooms since the final season ended. But it’s interesting to hear what specifically educators see in ‘The Wire’ that is beneficial for their students.

Of course, our undergraduate students will read rigorous academic studies of the urban job market, education and the drug war. But the HBO series does what these texts can’t. More than simply telling a gripping story, “The Wire” shows how the deep inequality in inner-city America results from the web of lost jobs, bad schools, drugs, imprisonment, and how the situation feeds on itself.

“The Wire” is fiction, but it forces us to confront social realities more effectively than any other media production in the era of so-called reality TV. It does not tie things up neatly; as in real life, the problems remain unsolved, and the cycle repeats itself as disadvantages become more deeply entrenched.