The class revolving around the television show The Wire in the Harvard Sociology Department continues to draw attention. Here is a quick summary of the some of the public discussion:
In a Boston Globe editorial, Eugene and Jacqueline Rivers, co-founder of the Boston Ten-Point Coalition and Harvard University doctoral student, respectively, wrote in support of the class:
One of the most difficult challenges confronting intellectuals is how to discuss the relationship between race and poverty in Obama’s “post-racial” America…”The Wire” can usefully serve as a non-partisan political resource for engaging the issues of race and poverty.’
The two add that the show is smart and creative, and that it can lead to discussion about programmatic responses to systematic inequality in the inner city.
On the opposite end of the spectrum stands Ishmael Reed, a professor at University of California-Berkeley who also contributed an op-ed on the subject to the Globe.
Reed believes that professors like Wilson are more concerned with using “hot courses built around sensational popular culture like hip-hop and crime shows as a way of filling seats in their classroom,” than with seriously examining race and class relations. Reed contends that the show is riddled with stereotypes, and should not be utilized in a university setting.
I would be curious to hear about the outcomes of the course, both for students and faculty.
What these comments about this particular class are hinting at is that there is disagreement about how to best teach courses about race, poverty, and social class. There are numerous resources professors can draw upon, including a wealth of ethnographic work from the last twenty years.