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Teaching The Wire

A course at Harvard is using the HBO series "The Wire" to teach students the truth about what ails American society. (Kirk Carapezza for WBUR)

A course at Harvard is using the HBO series "The Wire" to teach students the truth about what ails American society. (Kirk Carapezza for WBUR)

Whether you know Bunk, McNulty, Brother Mouzone or Omar doesn’t matter. That Harvard students understand that there’s trouble beyond the leafy, tony surrounds of their Cambridge campus is.

“The Wire,” HBO’s gritty crime series, received plenty of praise during its five seasons on the air. Now, educators from college professors to community organizers are using the series to teach students about race and poverty.

Larry Darnell Andrews is the real-life inspiration for the character Omar, the savvy, independent thug and stick-up artist who lives by his own code in "The Wire." (Kirk Carapezza for WBUR)

Larry Darnell Andrews is the real-life inspiration for the character Omar, the savvy, independent thug and stick-up artist who lives by his own code in "The Wire." (Kirk Carapezza for WBUR)

A new course at Harvard Law School is using “The Wire” to teach students about the world outside its doors. It’s called “Race and Justice — The Wire” and it’s taught by Professor Charles Ogletree.

There’s a lot to learn from the show’s wide-ranging lens, Ogletree said.

“The Wire” teaches us “about police corruption, about drug distribution, about the fact that the organization that we know about here at Harvard Law School is in many ways eerily similar to the corporation of the gang,” Ogletree said.

The series can also provide a different perspective. Larry Darnell Andrews, the real-life inspiration for the show’s “Omar” character, said that the show can give people an idea of what it’s like to live in inner-city neighborhoods ravaged by crime, drugs, and poverty.

“What’s going on outside of Cambridge, you know, it’s a violent world out there,” Andrews said. “People look at ‘The Wire’ but ‘The Wire’ is actually just PG compared to what’s really happening.”

Guests:

  • James Dauphine, director of programs, Ella J. Baker House
  • Rev. Eugene Rivers, founder and acting director, Ella J. Baker House
  • Ishmael Reed, professor emeritus, University of California Berkeley

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